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William H. Berge Oral History Center

Interview with Jan Curls

November 9, 1978 (1978 OH 509)

Conducted By William Berge

Transcribed by Laurie Wilcox

WILLIAM BERGE: The following is an unrehearsed taped interview with Mrs. Jan Curls, director of big brothers big sisters in Pulaski County by William Berge director of the oral history center at Eastern Kentucky University. The interview was conducted in Lexington Kentucky on November 9, 1978 at 6pm.


BERGE: Mrs. Curls, its really nice of you to let me come over here today and take time away from your meeting to interview you. Ah, I'd like to interview you about, just about your whole life but I'm particularly interested in your childhood. But probably the best place to start with would be the beginning. You could, if you don't mind telling me when you were born and what your maiden names was, and where you lived and that sort of thing.

JAN CURLS: Okay I was born in 1940 in, ah, McCreary county, and I I was born in 1:00a [unclear]

BERGE: Speak up a little bit.

CURLS: Okay. [Clears throat] Do you want me to start . . .

BERGE: No. Yeah just start again.

CURLS: Okay I was born in 1940 in McCreary county Kentucky, in a coal camp called Co-Operative.

BERGE: Is that a hyphenated word?

CURLS: Yes it is. Ah, between the two O's.

BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: And ah, my name was Janice Slaven, at the time.

BERGE: Uh huh. S-L-A-V-I-N?



CURLS: Uh huh.

BERGE: What was your father's name

CURLS: Uh, J. C. Slaven

BERGE: And your mother?

CURLS: Betty Thomas Slaven.

BERGE: Betty Thomas. And they were both from Tennessee were they?

CURLS: Right, Scott County, Tennessee.

BERGE: Okay. Ah, were you born in the coal camp or were you born in town or do you remember, do you know.

CURLS: Yeah I know I was born in the coal camp at home.

BERGE: You were?

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: Okay now how many brothers and sisters do you have?


CURLS: I have eight brothers and sisters.

BERGE: Where were you in that list?

CURLS: I was ah, the one next to the baby. The youngest daughter there was a son that was younger than I.

BERGE: In what year did you say again?

CURLS: 1940.

BERGE: 1940. Alright. Now it's kind of hard to do this but what's your first recollections, what do you remember first?

CURLS: What I remember first, I think, is playing outside in the yard. And seeing miners pass going to and from work. And, and their faces being black and they're carrying lunch kits which at that time were the round topped ones.

BERGE: Um huh. [unclear]

CURLS: Yes, put water in the bottom. And they had the uh carbide lights on their head. And I, I can remember that, I guess, more than anything else. And the noise the noise from the tipple because we could see the tipple.

BERGE: How many t--towns were in that camp? Do you have any idea?


CURLS: Oh at the, that time there was about one hundred.

BERGE: Uh huh

CURLS: Because there was an upper camp and a lower camp.

BERGE: At Co-Op?

CURLS: And a middle camp then.

BERGE: And where did you go where did you live, do you remember?

CURLS: We lived in the middle camp.

BERGE: Uh huh. Was that the best part?

CURLS: That was the best part, yeah. [laughing]

BERGE: It was huh? The ah, what did your father doing than, do you remember?

CURLS: Ah, my father then was a foreman, line foreman. Ah, he had started at the bottom after he came from Scott county, Tennessee and he moved up to foreman and, of course, gradually moved on up. But at this time he was a foreman.

BERGE: Uh huh. How long did you live at Co-Op?

CURLS: Myself?

BERGE: Yeah, you and your family

CURLS: Um. Well I lived there until l I was fourteen years old and my family 4:00lived there. Uh let's see I'm trying to think. Uh, from the time they came from Scott County, Tennessee. Now I believe that was 1921 or '22.

BERGE: Um hm. Now, so you lived there until you were fourteen. Did you e--where did you go to school? Where did you go to first grade? Do you remember?

CURLS: In the camp school.

BERGE: Oh, they had one there?

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: Do you remember any of your teachers?

CURLS: Oh yes, I remember the first grade teacher very well.

BERGE: Who was that?

CURLS: She was from Pennsylvania.

BERGE: Uh Huh.

CURLS: And her name was, and I'm not even sure this is the correct pronunciation but this is the way we pronounced it, her name was Flozat

BERGE: Flozat?

CURLS: Uh huh. Miss Flozat and she had she . . .

BERGE: Was she young?

CURLS: Yeah, she was young and she was tall and she had red hair and she wore it in a bun.

BERGE: Did you think she was really something?

CURLS: Oh yes she w--well she was a fantastic teacher.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: She really was.

BERGE: Uh huh. Was she nice looking?

CURLS: By today's standards, no.

BERGE: But she was stately I imagine and . . .

CURLS: Oh yes very much so. But today she would considered, considered kind--of 5:00course because she had a ruddy complection and she had walk with [unclear] on her feet. And her figure wasn't that good, you know.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: But, but to me she was beautiful.

BERGE: Was she respected in the camp?

CURLS: Oh yes very . . .

BERGE: By adults as well as children?

CURLS: Um hm. She visited in the homes periodically. This is not a requirement for her job but she did visit in the homes.

BERGE: Where did she live?

CURLS: She lived in Stearns and she rode the train in everyday.

BERGE: Uh, that was a little better for her safety I guess then living in, ah . . .

CURLS: Oh yes.

BERGE: Than in Co-Op. Everybody lived in Co-Op all the people who lived there were married I assume.

CURLS: Everybody except the very young people.

BERGE: That's what I mean. But the people that had homes, there were no single miners living there [unclear].


BERGE: Jan do you remember, ah, any other teachers in Co-Op?


CURLS: Oh I remember most of them. Well in fact, I remember all of them.

BERGE: Just, give, give me the other names you can think of rather hurriedly.

CURLS: Okay, Okay. My second and third grade teacher was Emily Dillweed and she was born in McCreary County. And she, she didn't live there either she rode the train down and she lived in Whitley City. And then there was ah, Dick Cooper and he also rode the train down. And then there was Lester Copener and E. B. Farley.

BERGE: But men. Not very many men. That's kind of strange isn't it?

CURLS: Uh huh. Yes it is. And, and ah, this, the school went to sophomore in high school.

BERGE: Oh. So you went to school, you never did go into county if you lived at Co-Op did you.


BERGE: How about ah, what do you remember about entertainment and social life for somebody your age? Not the parents but for you.

CURLS: Okay for my self we had a lot of games in the center of the camp. We had 7:00a ball diamond and the families got together and they went down and they played ball. Ah, we played bored on deck.

BERGE: What's that?

CURLS: Well that's, that's, that was a game that we made up ourselves.

BERGE: Was it like hide and go seek or something?

CURLS: No it was a type of ball only you we used just an old rubber ball or anything we could find. And there was only one base.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: You know. Well, there was two there was home plate and one other and we used a stick to bat with. And uh you know it didn't matter whether you caught the ball or not to it was to find somebody out. If you ca-grabbed it and you went after them and you touched them they were out, you know. When you touched the base it didn't matter even if you caught the ball or not.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: We played that a lot. And we played hide and go seek in the evenings in the summertime. We slid there in the slate dumps, slate dumps a lot. Uh, there was a lot of ah, wooded area up at the, it's obviously the mountains, and we ah, went up and down it an awful lot of those, and made play housed out of moss and rocks and wildflowers.

BERGE: When you say we who are you talking about?


CURLS: I'm talking about the other kids in the camp.

BERGE: Your brothers and sisters or?

CURLS: My brothers and sisters and the other neighborhood, see the . . .

BERGE: Were there a lot of children around?

CURLS: There were a lot of children in, and the parents and the children it was totally different than it is now. They were all very good friends. If somebody got sick they were taken care of by the neighbor.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: Ah, they ah. If somebody was raising a garden and they needed somebody to help them uh plow or hoe or whatever we all pitched in and did it. It was like the ball diamond we all pitched in and did the ball diamond. And we pitched horse shoes and we fixed that. And then there was a swimming hole.

BERGE: Where was that?

CURLS: That was at White oak junction and it . . .

BERGE: Was it a creek?

CURLS: Yeah it was a creek but you know it was a, a place in the creek that was a little wider and deeper than the other places.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And so they ah, they allowed us to go down there and we fixed a grapevine and we'd swing out on it and drop off, you know.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And the older kids would take care of the younger kids.


BERGE: Uh huh. In those days did you get into Stearns much?

CURLS: No. huh uh.

BERGE: So I mean, you really didn't have anything to compare Co-Op with?

CURLS: Not really. We were very very happy. We had a lot of goings on at the school too. WE had um, we had pie suppers and we had ah, my brother ah, became involved in showing a movie once a week, at the store. And we went to church. And we you know we just, we made entertainment for ourselves.

BERGE: Do you remember the store much?

CURLS: Yeah I remember the store because we went everyday.

BERGE: Um huh.

CURLS: And as we would go, we had . . .

BERGE: Was that a big deal? I mean, you didn't really like the store did you?

CURLS: We liked the store, yeah. Because the school was not a county school. It was a school that . . .

BERGE: Company school?

CURLS: Company school and it--

BERGE: Did the Stearns Company pay the teachers, do you know?


CURLS: Stearns Company paid the teachers. They also provided transportation for the teachers and the building and the land. And ah, they uh [loud noise] there was no busses. We walked to school and we walked home for lunch. There was no hot lunches. And then we'd walk back after wards.

BERGE: In retrospect would you say it was a good school?

CURLS: Yes it was. The teachers were outstanding. I don't know. . . .

BERGE: Would you say better than the county teachers maybe?

CURLS: Well, I don't know. I don't know what the county teacher were like because I had never been to a county school.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: But I will say this, when I entered the county high school, after I finished my eight grade year at Co-Op I, I was better prepared or as well prepared academically as anybody else.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: So, you know, I know by that that the teachers were just as good. And 11:00I'll have to , I , as far as my first and second and third grade teacher are concerned I think my first grade teacher was outstanding. She had to be.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And, ah, she was very dedicated, personally.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Ah, you know when I look back on it I think to myself, you know, she must have been an adventuress to have left Pennsylvania and come to of all places, McCreary county Kentucky, and teach in a mining camp. She really had to be.

BERGE: Do you think she came from a mining area in Pennsylvania?

CURLS: I don't know. I don't know, I can't remember her. Of course.

BERGE: Yeah, yeah.

CURLS: Talk to the kids about her personal life but to me she was an angel. And I've often wondered what happened to her but of course I have no way of knowing.

BERGE: Now when you left I'm sort of jumping ahead a little bit, but when you left Co-Op, where did you move to?

CURLS: We moved to Blue Heron.


BERGE: Blue Heron. Alright how far is that from Co-Op would you say.

CURLS: Oh, about 20 miles.

BERGE: Now was Blue Heron as nice a camp or as big a camp as Co-Op?


BERGE: Why did you move to Blue Heron, do you remember?

CURLS: Because the mines closed at Co-Op and Dad had finished, by this time he was Superintendent of the Co-Op mines. And he finished his work there and the company transferred him to Blue Heron to take over the mines there.

BERGE: Was Blue Heron a new town or old town?

CURLS: It was a new town.

BERGE: So they, your father really had the town built as well as open the mine, is that right?

CURLS: Well, they, they, he had a few things built. There were houses there and there weren't that many. There was only about 18 or 20 I guess,

BERGE: [unclear]

CURLS: They, you know, it just stayed like that pretty much because there wasn't any place to put them.

BERGE: Uh huh. Can you compare your life at Blue Heron and your life at Co-Op.

CURLS: Yeah I can. To me moving to Blue Heron was a tragedy. Because there was . . .

BERGE: Explain that?


CURLS: Because there wasn't very many children there at all.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And there wasn't any my age.

BERGE: And you were like 14.

CURLS: Yeah. And there was no social life. The people weren't neighborly, they didn't do things together. Ah, you know, there's just nothing to do.

BERGE: Let me back up a little bit. About how many houses do you think there were at Blue Heron?

CURLS: About twenty.

BERGE: Alright, when you were at, I just want to try to find out what, what peo--what young people did. Like when you were at Co-Op did, were you interested in boys, did have any boyfriends or?

CURLS: Yeah, a couple.

BERGE: Alright. And you didn't when you were at Blue Heron.

CURLS: Yeah.

BERGE: There were none is that right?

CURLS: There were none, no.

BERGE: When you went to Blue Heron where did you go to school?

CURLS: I went to the county high school.

BERGE: The one in Whitley City?

CURLS: Uh huh.

BERGE: Ah, were the few of you who came in from the coal towns into Whitley City, the school, was your school; experience about the same as the town kids or not?

CURLS: No it wasn't, because the activities were geared towards the kids who 14:00could come in and attend them regularly and we couldn't because it was just so far. We caught the bus at 5:30 in the morning. And we didn't get back until 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

BERGE: What time, ah, and you left school immediately after?


BERGE: So you didn't participate in any of these extracurricular things that were . . .

CURLS: The only time that we could participate, if one of our parents would take us, which, you know, after working in the mines all day they didn't do very often, you know.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And I, we resented it, but we can understand it now.

BERGE: Um hm. What ah, you, were you about the oldest child in Blue Heron would you say?

CURLS: Yes. Except there were a couple of girls that were in their 20's.

BERGE: But I mean you were the oldest school child at Blue Heron?

CURLS: Um hm, yes.

BERGE: What ah, now you said you were very happy in, you remember, in Co-Op.

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: At the time were you happy in Blue Heron or were you miserable?


CURLS: I was miserable.

BERGE: Ah, not only because the social things but how about ah, well I guess there was no . . . was there a store in Blue Heron?

CURLS: Yes there was the store but it [chuckle] it wasn't as well equipped as the one at Co-Op.

BERGE: Uh huh. How about ah, did you have a church?

CURLS: Yes, ah, one that was started but it wasn't you know, it wasn't involved in any type of social activities. They just had church services and that was every two weeks.

BERGE: When somebody came in to preach?

CURLS: Uh huh.

BERGE: What ah, what do you remember about your family's economic situation? I guess it was better than most with your father being superintendent.

CURLS: Well we had more than anybody, really.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And ah, my parents knew that we were unhappy so . . .

BERGE: How many were home then?

CURLS: There were four of us at home then. And ah, th--this was uh in the early, 16:00well in the middle 50s, 54, 55 somewhere along there, and ah TV had not been in existence very long in McCreary county. And if you've ever been in Blue Heron, its just right in the center of a hollow and there's mountains on each side and it just a real. . . .

BERGE: What you're trying to say is there was no TV in Blue Heron?

CURLS: There was no TV in Blue Heron but my dad managed it to fix TV for us. He got a man to come in . . .

BERGE: Set up a cable.

CURLS: He was an engineer and he extended a cable from our house to the top of the mountain. That was one of our social experiences, was TV. It was snowy in the beginning but when ah, the line was, you know, because of wind or rain or snow or something would come down, and we'd get all dressed up. Get lots of clothes on and we'd follow the line until we found what was there, then we'd patch it and come back home.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: But it was, at that time it was very very--well, in 1954, 55 and 56, $700 17:00was a lot of money, it's not that much now but it was a lot of money then and that's about how much it cost my dad to put up the TV.

BERGE: And you think he did it mainly because you all were so miserable?

CURLS: I know he did. He knew how unhappy we were and this was the way he could. . . .

BERGE: Well, how old were you when you left Blue Heron?

CURLS: I was, let's see, 17.

BERGE: And did you finish high school?

CURLS: Ah, I lacked one half year.

BERGE: And, what, how did you get out of there?

CURLS: I got married [laughing]

BERGE: Do you think you got married to get.

CURLS: I know I did.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: I know I did because anything looked good.

BERGE: Well, how did you meet the man you married?

CURLS: Well he was a teacher in one of the hollows that branched off from Blue 18:00Heron, and that's how I met him. And um, of course it didn't work out, but, I know that that's the reason that I married him because I probably wouldn't have, he was quite a bit older than, than.

BERGE: Uh huh, did you know many girls that did that?


BERGE: Really? Quite a few. What would the boys do to get out?

CURLS: They would go in the armed services.

BERGE: Did any of your brothers do that?

CURLS: All my brothers did that.

BERGE: You think to get away more than anything? Course some of them did because of the war the older ones I guess.

CURLS: Ah, the older ones did it because of the war but the others did it 19:00because, well there's a large family. And we knew that mom and dad couldn't send us to school and we, you know, it, it was one way of. And there wasn't also any kind of work available for anybody in McCreary County except for coal mining. And a couple of the boys went into coal mining for a little while. And then they came out and and except for one decided to go into something else.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: And ah, they, it was primarily about the only out for, for a family with several children. And only one person working and um they have since then done very well. But I guess motivated by the fact that they wanted to have more and, and could do more things, than probably their parents did.

BERGE: Do you remember any specific instances that happened at and\y of the Co-Op or Blue Heron that would be interesting to somebody who had never been there?

CURLS: Ah, a specific instance, about the only, I remember this in Blue Heron. There was a man killed and . . .

BERGE: How was he killed?

CURLS: Ah, a rock fall.


BERGE: From the mines you mean?

CURLS: Uh huh.

BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: And ah, my dad was superintendent of course. And it was one of those freak type accidents. Everything that could have been done had been done for safety sake. But he, he, well there is a philosophy that when it's your time to go you're going to go.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: And I think is the way people felt.

BERGE: Very fatalistic in other words?

CURLS: Yes. Nobody felt, blamed anybody, you know. Um But he had a large family, he had about eight children at home and he was killed and I remember the uh, the whistle blowing,

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And it, at a time when it wasn't supposed to blowing, and of course we knew that somebody either hurt or killed, and everybody ran.

BERGE: Were there ever any cave ins besides people getting killed?

CURLS: There were a couple but that, the people weren't hurt bad.

BERGE: Not many?

CURLS: No there weren't many and ah, another thing I remember is ah, the ah, 21:00this mining camp is [unclear] [talking very low] is a section of the Cumberland River. And there was a section where we swim a lot.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: There was a lot of rocks in the area and I remember ah, a small child was in the mud and to watch us swim, you know, and just, the mother was there watching too and the child just walked out,


CURLS: And just fell over and hit his head on the rock and you know,

BERGE: Drowned.

CURLS: No he didn't drown because we saw him and we went in after him.

BERGE: Oh that was lucky wasn't it?

CURLS: And my brother and myself, and we were. I remember that. And I remember we could see the bridge that where these coal cart crossed from where we would swim, and I remember watching them.

BERGE: When you were young and living in coal camps did you ever go to places like Knoxville of Lexington?



BERGE: Never did.

CURLS: I went to visit my brother and his wife ah, in Maryville, Tennessee. Of course I had to go on the outskirts of Knoxville, but we didn't stop.

BERGE: Yeah. Sounds like a big deal.

CURLS: Yeah, it was a big deal but the only reason I went was because they had had a child and they needed somebody to take care for the house.

BERGE: Yeah, yeah.

CURLS: Then I went to visit my sister in, up close to Columbus, Ohio. And then I went to Detroit, up close to Detroit.

BERGE: But this was all before you were married and when you were in school right?

CURLS: This is before I was married. And all these were supposedly big deals but, my. My brothers and sisters they had families and were trying to get ahead young families, so.

BERGE: It was not a real social thing?

CURLS: No, no it really wasn't because they didn't have any money to take me anywhere and do anything.

BERGE: When you married Jan, how did you finish high school? Did you stay in high school?

CURLS: I stayed in high school and finished.

BERGE: After you were married?

CURLS: Uh huh. And ah, I don't know I just insisted that, we. I don't know I 23:00guess I had a little bit of a mind of my own because I insisted that I go ahead and finish high school, and I did.

BERGE: Of course, then later on you went and finished college.

CURLS: Uh hm.

BERGE: [unclear] really now, do you ever talk to your parents about life in the camps? Do they see it much different than you would do?

CURLS: Yeah.

BERGE: Was your mother know, for instance, more contented than her daughters were?

CURLS: She wasn't very content at Blue Heron, none of us were.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Because she left a lot of friends. And she left women friends who'd just, you know, they'd have coffee together and then gossip you know. And they'd walk to the store together or make clothes together, or whatever.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: But there was nobody like that at Blue Heron.

BERGE: Did you ever go to any parties? Did they have parties in Blue Heron?

CURLS: Oh no.

BERGE: Never had any parties?

CURLS: No. They did at Co-Op but not.


BERGE: What was the biggest deal, socially, if you can remember, with her?

CURLS: [laughing]

BERGE: Christmas, I Guess?

CURLS: No. Christmas was not a big deal. I can't remember any big deal at Blue Heron except possibly you know the time there was church. There was normally when people came to visit in the church from out of the town, you know, the surrounding area. And possibly from Stearns, [unclear] the area. I guess that was the biggest deal probably. There was no, there was nothing a big deal there.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Ah, and the biggest deal as far as I was concerned was going to the few social events that I went to at the high school.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: Or maybe going to the movie at Stearns ever now and again.

BERGE: How often did you do that then?

CURLS: Oh, it was every two months or something like that.

BERGE: Um hm. How would you go in, your father would drive you?

CURLS: My dad, or one of my brothers if they happened to be around.

BERGE: Did you ever learn to drive when you were still in high school?



BERGE: No one had a car. I mean young people?

CURLS: Oh nobody had a car that was my age. I mean that just wasn't done then.

BERGE: Did you ever have much spending money?

CURLS: Never had any.

BERGE: Had you ever had a job when you were in high school?


BERGE: There were no jobs to be had I guess.

CURLS: There were no jobs to be had and the only money in our hand was lunch money. And at that time we got 25 cents a day and It wasn't, they didn't have a hot lunch program at the high school we had a uh . . . There was a little grocery store up the street from the grocery store and we'd go up to that and get a bag of chips and a pop.

BERGE: 25 cents wasn't . . .

CURLS: Or cake and pop [laughing]

BERGE: Yeah. Yeah. Something or other.

[tape turned off]

BERGE: Getting back to ah, what we were talking about on your life and in Co-Op 26:00and Blue Heron. Although I'd like you to tell me different you know when you tell me about one make sure I know which community it is.

CURLS: Okay.

BERGE: Was there anything in the way of social events that was involved with athletics?

CURLS: Yes in Co-Op there were quite a few, uh baseball was the big thing. And they, the camp had a baseball team made up of the men and boys in the camp and they competed with Stearns and Whitley City and . . . .

BERGE: When you say men and the boys like, how old were the men who played?

CURLS: Oh, up to around 40 I guess. And they ah, they had ah . . .

BERGE: and what?

CURLS: They had uh competition in baseball between the other mining the other company mining camps. And this was also true in the company schools.

BERGE: Did people go to the games much?

CURLS: Oh yes. This was a . . .

BERGE: Everybody in the community involved?

CURLS: Everybody in the community would just sit around and, well the ball 27:00diamond or, the ah, where they played ball, and it was a ball diamond, was in the center of the middle camp at Co-Op. And everybody would sit out on their front yard and watch. That's really all they had to do.

BERGE: Um hm. Did your mother go?

CURLS: Oh yes.

BERGE: Did your father play?

CURLS: No, my brothers did.

BERGE: Your brothers did.

CURLS: Father didn't.

BERGE: Did young children go like you.

CURLS: Oh yes.

BERGE: Anything else besides baseball?

CURLS: Well we had horseshoes but not really competitive horseshoes. Another thing that was competitive was the more attractive girls were competed for at pie suppers and church going events.

BERGE: Oh really?


BERGE: Buy their box.

CURLS: Buy their pie and take them off to the side and what good pie they had, even though many of them you couldn't even cut the crust, they were delicious as far as they were concerned.

BERGE: Jan what percentage, and I guess it would be hard to say percentage but, 28:00maybe as you can gather what did many of the children that were raised together in the camps end up marrying each other? Do you know of any?

CURLS: Ah, I know of a few yes, but not that many.

BERGE: Most of them didn't. Most of them did like you and your brothers you got out and met people from other places.

CURLS: Right, yes.

BERGE: Ah, what percentage of the children that you were raised with in Co-Op and Blue Heron ended up graduating from college?

CURLS: About . . . 15 or 20 percent, very very few.

BERGE: Did you ah, when did you first think that you might want to go to college and how were you, who sort of got you interested in it?

CURLS: Well, I, I always knew I wanted to go to college but I approach I was a 29:00very good student academically and I approached my mother, with this idea. I wanted to go to college and there were quite a few children and she said well if we have the money to send any of the children to college it will be one of the boys.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: And so I just, so I sort of forgot about it.

BERGE: In other words she about told you you couldn't go?

CURLS: Right.

BERGE: Well, who ah. . .

CURLS: And of course at that time the county high school didn't have a councilor and I couldn't go to anybody for advice on all these different loans and grants that you could get to go on. If I'd known that I, I'd probably, you know, thought well I'll go anyway.

BERGE: Did you have any teachers that tried to encourage you to college or anything?

CURLS: Well, yeah they, there were a couple who kind of encouraged me to go on to school but they knew the situation at home and also [laughs] If they encouraged you to go on to college it was to go on to become a teacher. Always to become a teacher.

BERGE: Or a nurse.

CURLS: Yeah. A teacher or a nurse one of . . .



CURLS: . . . . Either all be going into the armed services and making a career in the armed services. Or they would go ah, to the north and become either ah, go into a factory and, and progress in the factory to a foreman type position.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Or to a administrative.

BERGE: Oh, your back huh?

CURLS: And then some of us, Ah. I know of others and in my family some of us go on to college and we became teachers of school administrators. And some of us, uh well I have, I have a brother whose a millionaire and that's the only millionaire that I know of.

BERGE: Tell me this, of ah, is Co-Op still in existence?


BERGE: Have you been there recently?



BERGE: What's it like compared to when you were there.

CURLS: It's very [unclear]

BERGE: Run down.

CURLS: Run down. The houses are run down. The roads is terrible, it's ah there's no [unclear]. The people are, the people that live there most of them are ah, [unclear]

BERGE: Does Blue Heron still exist?


BERGE: It doesn't.

CURLS: It doesn't.

BERGE: Are there any buildings out at Blue Heron?

CURLS: I think uh there's one.

BERGE: How long since you've been out there?

CURLS: Oh it's been a year or two years, I guess.

BERGE: When you were young and went into Stearns, did Stearns look like real

CURLS: Oh yeah . . .

BERGE: Yeah some kind of place.

CURLS: Like a large town. If you went to Summerset ever. You know you were really going out shopping.

BERGE: Uh hm.

CURLS: [unclear]

BERGE: Back where you--

CURLS: [laughing]

BERGE: Back when you lived in Blue Heron did you ever talk to your father about 32:00moving to Stearns or anything like that?

CURLS: No. Children didn't do that, you know.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: You, you went where your father, where you parents went and you accepted it.

BERGE: Do you think your mother ever talked to him about it?

CURLS: I think she did in the beginning, before they moved, but after they moved she didn't.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Because she accepted it too. This was just part of life.

BERGE: Um. At Co-Op and Blue Heron did any of the families keep gardens?

CURLS: Oh yes. Um, not all of the families. Now, not at Blue Heron because there wasn't any way to keep a garden it was just mostly rock and there'd be nothing to plow. But in Co-Op most of the families that lived in the middle camp had a garden and they helped each other as far as planting and things like that.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And they were always you know who got there [unclear] if their vegetables 33:00came in first then they shared, you know.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Onion and potatoes and whatever.

BERGE: Yeah. Let me ask you ah, I've got one other thing before you quit for the day. Did ah, did people even in these camps keep something like say chickens or hogs or anything like that?

CURLS: Yes. We had chickens and we had a cow at one time.

BERGE: What . . .

CURLS: And we had uh pigs at one time.

BERGE: Um hm. Were all of the homes in both towns owned by the Stearns Company?


BERGE: What, did you rent them?

CURLS: We rented them out and the company kept them, painted them, and repair them and they kept them in real good shape.

BERGE: Were they in good repair?

CURLS: At that time. Yeah. And they had indoor plumbing. And if you wanted to build a place for a cow. If you wanted to have a cow or a chickens and you wanted build a place you did.

BERGE: What was. . .

CURLS: Nobody said anything.

BERGE: What percentage of the families had automobiles?

CURLS: Oh, I would say uh 50 percent. [unclear]


BERGE: Uh huh. Now I want to just sort of recollect what you told me. Your memories of Co-Op are a lot fonder than they are of Blue Heron.

CURLS: Oh yes.

BERGE: Do you think that they would have been as fond if you had turn the times around and you lived in Blue Heron when you were young and lived in Co-Op when you were older.

CURLS: [laughter]

BERGE: I know that's hard to say but.

CURLS: That is hard to say.

BERGE: What I'm trying to find out is if Co-Op was that much better or if. . . .

CURLS: Co-Op was.

BERGE: Better to you because you were that much younger.

CURLS: Co-Op was that much better.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And I think you could ask anybody. You could, could ask anybody that had ever lived in, well, if you asked someone who had lived in Co-Op and then you asked somebody who had lived in Blue Heron and neither one of them had lived in the other place. I think you would get an idea of what I'm saying because there was no comparison. There just wasn't.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: It, and its not, and I don't hate it.

BERGE: It wasn't just the size either?

CURLS: It, it wasn't just the size it was everything. And I don't hate it. I 35:00have, I have fond memories.

BERGE: You mean Blue Heron.

CURLS: I don't hate Blue Heron. No I don't. One reason I don't hate it I think is because regardless of where we lived and what we did and what we couldn't do and what we could do, there was a strong, there's very strong family ties there. Our parents loved us and they, and we knew that they did the best that they could do for us.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: We, I guess uh, at that time children respected their parents and they they accepted what, what could be done for them.

BERGE: Yeah, Um hm. I'd like, I ought to thank you for giving this time 36:00[unclear]. I would like to talk with you again sometime about what you've done subsequently to this. In other words where you went to school how you went to school and all that sort of thing. Just, we want to try to trace as best as we can the people who were raised in the camps, you know. Uh, just briefly tell me some names of some other towns comparable say to Co-Op and Blue Heron that you knew of in that area.

CURLS: Co-Op was the model town. Outside--

BERGE: Well Stearns was the model town.

CURLS: Out, outside of Stearns

BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: And ah there was Blue Heron, there was Barthell, there was uh.

BERGE: Barthell, how do you spell that?

CURLS: B-A-R-T-H-E-L-L, and it was close to Blue Heron.

BERGE: Okay was that owned by Stearns Company?


BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: There was Belle Farm.

BERGE: Is that two words or one?

CURLS: Its two words


CURLS: Um hm. And then there was Paint Cliff.

BERGE: Paint what?

CURLS: Paint P-A-I-N-T-C-L-I-F-F.

BERGE: Oh Paint Cliff.

CURLS: Right.

BERGE: Uh huh.


CURLS: And there was White Oak Junction.

BERGE: White Oak Junction.

CURLS: Um hm. And there's Oz.


CURLS: O-z, um hm. That was one, and Worley.


CURLS: Right. And I believe that's all I can remember.

BERGE: Okay. Well I want to thank you and as I say I'd like to talk to you again about your life after you were in the coal. . . .