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William H. Berge Oral History Center

Coal Company Towns Project

Interview with Mrs. Jan Curls

January 26, 1981(1981 oh 117)

Conducted by William H. Berge

Transcribed by Laurie Wilcox

WILLIAM BERGE: The following is an unrehearsed taped interview with Mrs. Janis Curls. The interview was conducted by William Burge for the Oral History Center at Eastern Kentucky University. The interview was conducted in Mrs. Curls' office in Summerset Kentucky on January 26, 1981 at 10 am.

WILLIAM BERGE: Mrs. Curls I wanted to thank you for letting me come down here today I know your busy and giving me this time in your office to interview you. Some of this, some of these questions I asked you I've asked you before one on the other interview we had, but I don't have it with me and some of the things I won't remember. So I might re ask you those things. Tell me your maiden name, when you were born, and where you were born and that type of thing?

JANIS CURLS: Okay my maiden name is Slaven and uh I was born in Cooperative, Kentucky.





JANIS CURLS: Uh in McCrery County May 23, 1940.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now you were born in Co-Op?


WILLIAM BERGE: At your parents' house?


WILLIAM BERGE: Okay now you're from a large family how many older brothers and sisters do you have?

JANIS CURLS: I have one older sister and five older brothers.

WILLIAM BERGE: Okay do you have any younger brothers or sisters?

JANIS CURLS: One, one younger brother.

WILLIAM BERGE: Okay, now let's give me the names of your older, your older brothers and sisters starting from the oldest one.

JANIS CURLS: Okay the oldest one is Fred Lee that's two words it's not combined, and the next one is Frank, and the next one is Vurman.

WILLIAM BERGE: How do you spell that?

JANIS CURLS: V-U-R-M-A-N. The next one is Cletus and.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh I know what's going on.

JANIS CURLS: Uh the next one is Gene.



WILLIAM BERGE: That's your sister?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh, and then Don, myself, and George.


WILLIAM BERGE: George. Alright now Gene what's her, is she married?


WILLIAM BERGE: What's her name now?


WILLIAM BERGE: Uh uh. Where does she live?

JANIS CURLS: She lives in South Carolina.

WILLIAM BERGE: Okay. Now, your uh older brothers and sisters where any of the others born in Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: All of us were born in Co-Op with the exceptions of uh the two older ones.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where did you folks live when they were born?

JANIS CURLS: They lived in Scott County, Tennessee.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh that was before they came, before your father came to Sterns Company.


WILLIAM BERGE: Are both of your parents from Tennessee? I think you told me they were.

JANIS CURLS: Yeah both of them were from Scott County.

WILLIAM BERGE: When your father came to Co-Op uh do you remember the year? Do you know the year?

JANIS CURLS: It was in the 20s but I don't know the exact year no.

WILLIAM BERGE: It may have been latter than 20s.


WILLIAM BERGE: Okay now uh what are your first relocations, what are your first 3:00memories of your home was it in Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: Yes it was in Co-Op.

WILLIAM BERGE: What do you remember early in your life?

JANIS CURLS: Oh I think I remember more than and I I remember balls games, down in the ball diamond, I remember those and I remember um.

WILLIAM BERGE: This would be before you started school?

JANIS CURLS: Yes. I remember going down and sitting around the edge of the ball diamond and watching the games.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was that a big deal?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes oh definitely.

WILLIAM BERGE: What was that like a Sunday?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh that was usually every Sunday. Also remember the, the changing of the shift you know seeing the men come down from off the hill uh or crossing the rail road tracks. Changing shift some going in some coming out. Uh I remember.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you talk those men when they were going in.

JANIS CURLS: I would say hi. I remember I I guess more I remember of how they 4:00look. Men who worked in the mines never got completely clean; they looked like they had mascara on all the time you know? Of course I didn't know they looked like they had mascara on.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did they have a wash house there at Cooperative? Do you remember?

JANIS CURLS: Yes they did, but you know there were just certain things embedded into the skin


JANIS CURLS: It was a long time after my dad retied that before he got it completely out from around his eyes and in his skin.

WILLIAM BERGE: Real reflexive. The pores are reflexive about that stuff.

JANIS CURLS: And I also remember the uh, I remember the sound of the uh Tipple as it was crushing coal. That was a continual sound on.

WILLIAM BERGE: You got so live with it I guess.

JANIS CURLS: Oh yeah well you when you are born there don't, it's it's uh the sound that you been if you didn't hear it would be unusual. And I remember my mother telling me you don't drink the mine water you know? As you're growing up they tell you certain things you don't do.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where'd you, where'd you get the water from, the pump?

JANIS CURLS: We got water um, we had, there was water in the house but it was a, 5:00it was a kind of reddish looking water it was uh polluted. Of course we didn't, we didn't call it polluted at that time.

WILLIAM BERGE: It was for washing though?

JANIS CURLS: Yes, and uh but we had to get drinking water from the pump. And of course uh we played in it we played in the mine water.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now the pump is that old pump that's still down there in Co-op in that open space there?


WILLIAM BERGE: That wasn't too far from the tipple actually?

JANIS CURLS: No it wasn't and a lot of people meet there you know like the boys would meet there.

WILLIAM BERGE: Is that where the ball diamond was?

JANIS CURLS: It was close. The ball diamond was more towards where the superintendent house is. More toward that way, and it the boys the teenage boys, you know I called them big boys at that time cause I was so small, but they would in the winter time build a big bonfire close to the pump and they would uh smoke cigarettes and throw them in the fire and get fire crackers and throw them into the fire.


JANIS CURLS: Tell lies and talk about who could make who.


WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah and talk about girls.

JANIS CURLS: Yeah, that sort of things.

WILLIAM BERGE: Tell me this now when you.

JANIS CURLS: But I wasn't allowed around that fire.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did any girls ever hang around with those boys?

JANIS CURLS: No, no never.

WILLIAM BERGE: Parents were pretty strict with the girls were they?

JANIS CURLS: Yes they were.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was that almost universal I mean? Would you say that the parents say in a coal mining camp like that were maybe generally more strict than the parents say that lived in say Whitely City?

JANIS CURLS: I would say about something like that yes. You know, they were they knew that the kids were going to get together you know? They also knew they would see each other at school, but it was definitely taboo to.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where was the school Jan?

JANIS CURLS: It was uh up the rail road track from the the main camp, up in the upper end of camp. There was three different camps of course, really, and the one in the center was the main camp that's where the high ration lined people lived.

WILLIAM BERGE: That's closer to the tipple?

JANIS CURLS: Yes, and that you know that really doesn't make sense in a way.


WILLIAM BERGE: That's were those three houses still are?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh yes.


JANIS CURLS: And of course we had we had a store, a hotel, and we had.

WILLIAM BERGE: Who stayed in the hotel?

JANIS CURLS: Well there were miners uh that came in on the train and worked all week, and went away on the weekend, and we also had teachers that came in who came in and stayed all week.

WILLIAM BERGE: What percentage of the miners you think lived there and what percentage commuted on the weekend?

JANIS CURLS: I would say seventy percent lived there.

WILLIAM BERGE: With families?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh, the rest commuted. They just you know for one reason or another they couldn't live there. Maybe they weren't married or maybe their family just refused to move.

WILLIAM BERGE: When you went to the store when you were small uh did you go to the, there by yourself now?


WILLIAM BERGE: Did you buy things there?

JANIS CURLS: I would buy what my mother sent after and then I usually uh she 8:00would usually tell me to get a little something for myself.

WILLIAM BERGE: A little piece of candy. Now what what did you use, did you use company script or did you charge it or what do you remember?

JANIS CURLS: We used uh company script for like for our candy and stuff Mom and Dad would always give us a little you know. But and they had a charge to and they paid it off with script.

WILLIAM BERGE: Do you remember how often the miners were paid were they paid weekly or every two week or, do you remember that?

JANIS CURLS: I don't know it seems like it was every two weeks, but I can't be sure. Yeah that would be defiantly something you would have to ask my mother, I guess or my dad. Cause I don't really know.

WILLIAM BERGE: What were the youngest, how young how young were the youngest miners? Do you remember that?

JANIS CURLS: Well my brother worked in the mines, he lives in California now, he worked in the mines uh while he was in high school in the summertime and then after he got out of school he.

[Tape Interrupted]

WILLIAM BERGE: [clearing throat] Excuse me. Was that very common for young 9:00people like that to work in the mines, as young as your bother was?

JANIS CURLS: Yes, yes it was. Well because.

WILLIAM BERGE: For boys whose families lived in the camp?

JANIS CURLS: Yes. Because uh it was a lot of families had no money to, we had a two year high school that they attended, and you had to be able to afford to board them somewhere for them to go on and finish high school.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where do they usually go to high school to finish?

JANIS CURLS: Well my brothers and sister went to Berea to uh to the foundation school, but a lot.

WILLIAM BERGE: Just the last two years?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh. A lot of them went to uh they went to McCrery County High school or Sterns, but they had, they had to board with a family during the week.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now you finished at McCrery County High School didn't you?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh yes.

WILLIAM BERGE: Uh where did you, how did you go?

JANIS CURLS: Well at that time there was a bus.



WILLIAM BERGE: When did you start going to school in town? Do you remember what grade?



WILLIAM BERGE: Just the last two years like?

JANIS CURLS: No, uh by the time I finished they only had the eight grades. And I had to go when I was a freshman in high school.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh so you went your last four years to McCrery County High School. Was there any difference between, do you think you had the same high school experience as say the people who lived in town or was it less?

JANIS CURLS: Definitely not.

WILLIAM BERGE: What were the big problems?

JANIS CURLS: Well the big problems were that you lived so far away that uh activities such as ball games, or partiers, or dances, or whatever it was you know uh you very it was very unusable to be able to attend.

WILLIAM BERGE: You would have to send the night with somebody to be able to go?

JANIS CURLS: I would have to spend the night with somebody or my dad would bring 11:00us. Because at that time boys that were my age didn't have cars like they do now and of course even if they had cars nobody was going to drive from Whitley city to Co-Op or from Whitely City to Blue Heron to pick up a girl.

WILLIAM BERGE: How long would that trip take, Jan do you remember?

JANIS CURLS: Uh it took about um it took about an hour. We at Blue Heron for instance the school bus picked us up before dawn in the mornings, and because they had a lot of stops and then we went to Revoel school and picked up a lot of kids there and we would get to school just about the time the bell rang. Then in the evenings we would get home just about dark.

WILLIAM BERGE: How old were you when you family moved from Co-Op, Cooperative to uh Blue Heron?

JANIS CURLS: I had finished the eighth grade and they moved the summer prior to me being a freshman in school.

WILLIAM BERGE: What do you remember how you felt about leaving Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: I felt bad about it because uh I had been there all my life and my friends where there, and but you don't, didn't question.

WILLIAM BERGE: Of course that wasn't the biggest company town to?

JANIS CURLS: Yes. You didn't question your parents. You know if this is what the 12:00company required of your father you, we were taught you go where your parents go.

WILLIAM BERGE: Do you remember how you mother reacted to the move?

JANIS CURLS: She didn't like it, but again you know her feeling is you go where your husband goes.

WILLIAM BERGE: How long did you live in Blue Heron then?

JANIS CURLS: I lived there for four years and then I got married.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh you lived there and you finished high school there?

JANIS CURLS: Yes, yes.

WILLIAM BERGE: Okay let me go back a bit to uh when you were living in Co-Op. Uh as a girl I'm sure you didn't play baseball with the com- with the town team or anything like that.

JANIS CURLS: No, no I didn't.

WILLIAM BERGE: Um did the boys in Co-Op play basketball?

JANIS CURLS: They played basketball on outdoor court at the school you know? We played we didn't play other teams or anything like that.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh you didn't.


WILLIAM BERGE: Cooperative didn't have a basketball team at the high school did they?



WILLIAM BERGE: Uh what did, what did you do for say?

JANIS CURLS: Recreation?

WILLIAM BERGE: Fun and recreation.

JANIS CURLS: Well we played uh board on deck.

WILLIAM BERGE: What was that?

JANIS CURLS: Board on deck is played with uh with just a wooden stick and it's uh with any kind of ball you can find. It really doesn't make any difference what kind it is, preferably not a hard ball. And there was one base and you, it's played similar to baseball except for that.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah, I think you told me about this before.

JANIS CURLS: We played that a lot in the afternoon.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was that like, the, you mentioned that twice now.

JANIS CURLS: That was a big thing for small kids.

WILLIAM BERGE: That was the big game, huh?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah. Uh and as a girl we built a lot of play houses up in the wooded areas behind.

WILLIAM BERGE: Up in the hills.

JANIS CURLS: Yeah, on the other side of the tram. Which was the track used by 14:00the coal cars. We would go up on the other side of that and we uh, we would build play houses out of moss and rocks and things like that. We didn't have any you know like, like toy furniture like they have now.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now I guess you left Co-Op about oh.


WILLIAM BERGE: 1954 alright, were there a lot of cars in Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: No (laughing) no not a lot.

WILLIAM BERGE: Like what percentage of the families would have cars? Would you have any idea?

JANIS CURLS: Oh by that time I think uh the families fifty percent of them had cars by that time.

WILLIAM BERGE: But say by about by the time you had started the school were there weren't that many?

JANIS CURLS: No oh no.

WILLIAM BERGE: Like forty-five or forty-six or something like that?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah there was like maybe twenty percent of families.

WILLIAM BERGE: When you were real small like up till the time you started school did all the families that lived there have radio?

JANIS CURLS: The ones that I visited did.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was it, could you get radio good in there?


JANIS CURLS: No, at times you could at times you couldn't. But uh we, we would sit around the radio in the evening you know. Everybody had chores. We uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: What did you do?

JANIS CURLS: Uh washed dishes.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah, one of the two girls?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah, and uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: What did your bothers do? Do you remember what kind of chores they did?

JANIS CURLS: Oh they brought in the coal and the kindling and you know kept the yard. We had chickens and we had a cow.

WILLIAM BERGE: What percentage of the people would have chickens?

JANIS CURLS: Oh I'd say fifteen percent not very many, most people didn't have a place to keep them. We also had a garden, everybody worked in the garden.

WILLIAM BERGE: What percent of people had gardens?

JANIS CURLS: Just about everybody had the chance to have a garden if they wanted to of course everybody did. They had, they had the opportunity.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did, do you remember uh the first time you saw a movie?


WILLIAM BERGE: Where was that?

JANIS CURLS: At my home.


WILLIAM BERGE: At your house?

JANIS CURLS: Yes, my brother uh had a he showed movies at the school every Saturday night, and after like the next evening he show them to us at home.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh regular movies than?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah regular movies.

WILLIAM BERGE: What did they, how were they brought in? Do you remember?

JANIS CURLS: They were brought in by train.

WILLIAM BERGE: Uh when you went to say Whitely City or Sterns when you were a girl which town did you more have to go to? Say when you were living in Co-Op.


WILLIAM BERGE: You went to Sterns more often.


WILLIAM BERGE: What did you go in there for?

JANIS CURLS: Well uh we would go dad might have business at the central office. 17:00Uh he also traded cars with the company owned uh franchise which was Ford at the time, of course it isn't owned by the company anymore. And uh he uh we would uh shop around store one for clothing store three for groceries things you know things that you.

WILLIAM BERGE: You would go around with your mother while?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh, because uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was there a much better selection in the stores in Sterns than there was in Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: Yes because it was, Co-Op really didn't' get that much fresh meat I think they got it once a week and fresh vegetables and and fruit were practically well they just, they just didn't get them.

WILLIAM BERGE: They came in the train when they did. How about clothing was there a better selection in Sterns?

JANIS CURLS: Well you there was very little clothing at Sterns, Co-Op, except for overalls and flannel shirts and t-shirts.


JANIS CURLS: Stuff like that just regular. You could tell them, you could tell the store manager what you wanted and he would have it sent down. If you knew exactly what you wanted. Like uh the girls we would get [unclear] books.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah when, when they were popular.

JANIS CURLS: Yeah. Oh they stayed popular as long as I've left school.

WILLIAM BERGE: Never saw, never saw anything else but.

JANIS CURLS: And I, any you know uh we had I guess because of our large family, 18:00but everybody was like this, we had one pair of shoes. Who wore the shoes.

WILLIAM BERGE: Who did your hair when you were a little girl?

JANIS CURLS: My mother or her her neighbor would give us home perms you know sometimes they'd frizz and sometimes they wouldn't.

WILLIAM BERGE: Do you remember the first time you went to a beauty parlor?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes I was I was an adult the first time I went to a beauty parlor.

WILLIAM BERGE: Let's go back to, let's stay in Co-Op a while longer I want to ask you a few more questions about Cooperative. Who were your best friends when you lived in Co-op.

JANIS CURLS: Oh there were a couple of girls that were my best friends. One of them's dad was a coal miner and she lived in the lower end of camp.

WILLIAM BERGE: What's her name?

JANIS CURLS: Bonnie Strife at that time was her name.

WILLIAM BERGE: What's her name now?

JANIS CURLS: She her names Bonnie Bark and she lives in Louisville and she works 19:00in a factory up there, she and her husband. In fact it's not been to long since I've talked to her. She's doing real well. And uh the other one is us was Jewel Dobbs and her name is Jewel Roberts now, and she lived up in Dobbs town which is a little place up above the upper end of camp

WILLIAM BERGE: Did, does the company own that?

JANIS CURLS: No the company didn't own that.

WILLIAM BERGE: Okay, okay.

JANIS CURLS: And her father tried to farm a little bit and they were they were very poor, and and when I say that I don't mean it derogatory.

WILLIAM BERGE: They were poor compared to you?

JANIS CURLS: They were poorer than us you know, and and I spent nights with them and they spent nights with me.

WILLIAM BERGE: What, what does she do now?

JANIS CURLS: She doesn't do anything she's married and lives I think in Cincinnati she and her husband, and he works she doesn't. And they walked, they walked to school to there were no buses so they walked.

WILLIAM BERGE: When you went to uh Sterns with your mother and fathers, and maybe your brothers and sisters. Did you go by car or train most often?

JANIS CURLS: We uh we went by car I remember going by car mostly, because my 20:00parents had a car with it by the time that I came along. Prior years they didn't, but by the time I got there.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you ever take the train into town?

JANIS CURLS: Couple times yeah.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you like it?

JANIS CURLS: And I enjoyed that.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah that was a big deal huh? How long did it take do you remember?

JANIS CURLS: Oh it took a long time.

WILLIAM BERGE: Longer than an hour?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah, but it took a pretty long time in a car.

WILLIAM BERGE: My [unclear] a uh passenger car on a coal train or something like that?

JANIS CURLS: Mhm yeah. It was it was fun, but of course see I knew all of the guys who who worked on the train because we waved at them all the time you know and when they would get off the train why if if we were close we would run up and talk to them see how they were you know, and uh it was uh it was a good life really.

WILLIAM BERGE: So you uh you uh finished eighth grade at Co-Op.



WILLIAM BERGE: Do you remember any of your teachers at Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes I remember.

WILLIAM BERGE: What were their names?

JANIS CURLS: Okay there was uh in the first grade I had a Mrs. Slowzack from Pennsylvania.

WILLIAM BERGE: Uh huh I think you told me about her before.

JANIS CURLS: Yeah she had uh she was red headed and it was real long and she piled on top of her head. She was she was really a good teacher. Then I had a I had Dick Cooper who is still living, and uh I had West Cupboard whose still living, and Ebie Farely and I think he's still living.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where were they from? Local people?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh they were local people, but they rode the train down to teach down there.

WILLIAM BERGE: Not every day though just on the week, once a week stayed in a hotel mostly?

JANIS CURLS: No they, they went back and forth every day on the train.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh every day.


WILLIAM BERGE: They spent a long time traveling.

JANIS CURLS: Yes they did and uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did they close schools in bad weather in those days?


WILLIAM BERGE: Never did, did they? Do you remember how long school year was?

JANIS CURLS: Well it seems as if we, we started around the first of September 22:00and we were usually out by the first of May. It wasn't nearly as long as it is now.

WILLIAM BERGE: You started a little latter and got out a little earlier.

JANIS CURLS: But really I don't think winters were as bad then as they are now. I can't remember. I can.

WILLIAM BERGE: Especially if you weren't going anywhere so [unclear].

JANIS CURLS: That's true that's true, but we walked to school every day.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you eat lunch at school?

JANIS CURLS: No we came home for lunch.

WILLIAM BERGE: Everyone that went home for lunch or carried her lunch.


WILLIAM BERGE: I bet Dobbs girl probably carried her lunch.

JANIS CURLS: She brought her lunch yeah, and I envied her you know because she could take her lunch.

WILLIAM BERGE: And didn't have to go home?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah, and it's so much nicer to go home and have a good hot lunch [unclear].

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you have recess and that kind of stuff?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yeah we had two recess and they were pretty long ones to.

WILLIAM BERGE: How about [clears throat] when you went to Co-Op then, I mean Blue Herring, was Blue Herring just starting when you went there?

JANIS CURLS: It had been started for a short period of time.


WILLIAM BERGE: In other words your father wasn't the first super indent at Blue Herring then?

JANIS CURLS: No. no he wasn't, but it was definitely the life style at Blue Herring was nothing compared to the life style in Co-Op.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was it just that there were more people in Co-Op or there were more things to do at Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: Well the way there was.

WILLIAM BERGE: Of course Blue Heron was new.

JANIS CURLS: It was new and the people there weren't a whole lot of people that lived there for one thing the people that lived and then for another thing to there was not the closeness, people that lived at Co-Op we I remember my mother visiting back and forth with the neighbor ladies and they had coffee and they helped each other and you know somebody got sick they brought food in. You know like I told you.


JANIS CURLS: The neighbor had mom give perms and she in turn would help them it 24:00was uh and the all kids played together and we would get games started on our own like the board on deck, or baseball, or steal the bacon, or.

WILLIAM BERGE: I guess it's the same thing that families lived there longer.

JANIS CURLS: Yes they did.

WILLIAM BERGE: So they knew people better.

JANIS CURLS: And uh but at Blue Heron the only activity that I can remember the kids ever doing was swimming in the river in summer time.

WILLIAM BERGE: Jan, back at Co-op uh do you ever remember a doctor ever being at Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yeah Doctor Simpson, he delivered me.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did he have an office there?

JANIS CURLS: Yes and I remember.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was he paid by the company?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh and we.

WILLIAM BERGE: How do you spell his name? Do you remember?

JANIS CURLS: S-I-M-P-S-O-N. And he uh I remember as kids growing up and playing down in the camp.

WILLIAM BERGE: He probably delivered half the kids in the camp.

JANIS CURLS: Well he did and we would get a little cut or scratch and we would run up to he'd treat us you know. We we didn't go home we went to him. .

WILLIAM BERGE: So in a way there was a certain kind of security there that you wouldn't have in a normal more normal situation.

JANIS CURLS: Well I don't think we would have it here.


WILLIAM BERGE: Jan do you remember anybody uh when you were small living in Co-Op who had to go to the hospital?


WILLIAM BERGE: Where did they go?

JANIS CURLS: They went to Oneida or Summerset.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oneida Tennessee and Summerset.

JANIS CURLS: And sometimes Lexington it would depend on how serious they were.

WILLIAM BERGE: How would they take them out of there? On a train or in a car?

JANIS CURLS: Well they took them on train until the road was built. You know it depend on the seriousness of the situation.

WILLIAM BERGE: How quickly they had to be there.

JANIS CURLS: Now the men, you know like my dad got hurt in the mines and they took him on to Lexington and you now he got over it he survived he's eighty years old. But uh uh the superintends and the forums were all trained in first aid, and so then we had the company doctor so we tried to take care of as many things as we could there.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where you part of that uh thing that I refereed about every now 26:00and then of people going into uh Sterns for the Fourth of July picnic and all that kinds of business.

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes, yes we went in for the Carnival and big celebration and it was it was wonderful we thought it was the greatest thing ever was, to get to go to the carnival and the Fourth of July Celebration.

WILLIAM BERGE: When did you first have inkling that maybe you were being deprived of something by living in the company towns rather than say living in in the county seed or something like that?

JANIS CURLS: I've never had that feeling uh that may seem kind strange I really, 27:00uh there were things such as piano lesson and dance lessons and things like that I would have like to have had, but I really don't feel like that I was deprived because I feel like the culture and the closeness of the families and the love that that my parents had for us I just don't feel like we were deprived. Because we developed we developed our own recitation. You know kids could really do that today if they were left to their own you know.

WILLIAM BERGE: I don't want to put words in your mouth but I get the feeling the couple times you and I have talked about this that the you were much less contented though in Blue Heron than you were in.


WILLIAM BERGE: You think it was because of your age or the place?

JANIS CURLS: I think the age had a lot to do with it you know you're just entering your teen years and starting into high school, and you need your friends and I didn't have them and really Blue Heron was not the type of place that was conducive to contentment, it just wasn't.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was there a store at Blue Heron?


WILLIAM BERGE: Was it was as big as the store at Co-Op.

JANIS CURLS: No, no it wasn't.

WILLIAM BERGE: What did they sell there?

JANIS CURLS: And of course, of course something else to the store manager at Co-Op uh Mr. Logan and been there for years and I mean for a lot of years many years I didn't mean to sound like four the number four.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah, yeah I know.

JANIS CURLS: but uh and he knew everybody he knew all the kids he had seen us 28:00grow up, and he treated us like he was an uncle or something. And the guy at Blue Heron, uh Mr. Logan had also lived in Co-Op at one time, and the guy that was at Blue Heron had never had any connection with the coal mining camp. He came down in the morning and left in the afternoon and he you know He didn't really take an interest I guess he drew a salary and that was his job.

WILLIAM BERGE: There was no school at Blue Heron was that right?


WILLIAM BERGE: Never a school, not even an elementary school?


WILLIAM BERGE: Where did they go?

JANIS CURLS: They went to Revelo the elementary school.

WILLIAM BERGE: So they traveled from the very beginning?

JANIS CURLS: Yes they did.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where there as many children living in Blue Heron, like how many children in the camps do you went to school?

JANIS CURLS: Oh maybe twelve.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was that all?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh, not that many.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where there many other people your age there?

JANIS CURLS: Nope. No I was the only person that was going to high school at that time see.

WILLIAM BERGE: The only boy or girl?


JANIS CURLS: The only boy or girl yes. There was uh there was uh there was another girl that lived on the road going out and maybe one boy and that was it. Until you got out into well out into Revelo.

WILLIAM BERGE: The county sort of

JANIS CURLS: And then more kids came on.

WILLIAM BERGE: So it wouldn't make any sense for me to ask who you're best friends were when you were in Blue Heron because you really didn't have any.

JANIS CURLS: I really didn't have any though

WILLIAM BERGE: Were you aware when you were in Blue Heron of how beautiful the area was or not?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes, yes we uh I think I was aware of that because during the time I was growing up in Co-Op we spent a lot of time in the wooded area around the camp and we hiked a lot and in the spring one of our recreational activities was picking wild flowers.

WILLIAM BERGE: Hold on just a minute.

[tapes pauses]

WILLIAM BERGE: What you were talking about was when you were at Cooperative?

JANIS CURLS: Mhmm yes we uh one of our recreational activities was picking wild 30:00flowers, and I had always spent a lot of time in the wooded areas around Co-Op so I I realized from that how beautiful it was and course the Devils Jump area and, and I knew that uh that we we were living in a beautiful place but it still didn't take away from the fact I was a kid.


JANIS CURLS: You know I needed I needed people my own age, at least one or two you know.

WILLIAM BERGE: Who all was home? Just you and your brother then?

JANIS CURLS: My younger brother and my niece and she, he was three years younger than I and she was six years younger than I.

WILLIAM BERGE: So they were they were some company but really not very much?


WILLIAM BERGE: Um do you have, you married very young what were you eighteen or seventeen?

JANIS CURLS: Seventeen.

WILLIAM BERGE: Seventeen, uh is it do you think it's in the realm of possibility 31:00that if you had lived somewhere else you wouldn't have married that young.

JANIS CURLS: Oh I think that's defiantly true. Uh I think I have resentment because of that because the marriage turned out very bad. But it's not something you can uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Hate anybody.

JANIS CURLS: Oh not hate anybody.

WILLIAM BERGE: But its, okay what?

JANIS CURLS: And I really I appreciate the the upbringing I had and uh I'm proud of the upbringing I had, and I proud of being rooted in a coal mining camp. Even though I wasn't happy in Blue Heron and even though it probably, my first marriage probably resulted from that I still I think the adv- well I'm not saying the average person but I think that people have to rise above their circumstances so I don't have any bad feelings about it.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you uh date much in high school?


JANIS CURLS: No I didn't, because uh as I said earlier the boys that were in that were my age very few of them had cars and there were a couple of guys that I liked that you know we ran around together at school but we never got to go anywhere together.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you look forward to going to school?

JANIS CURLS: Yes and no. I went through a period uh the year I was a freshman I went through a period of deep depression. My grades went down.

WILLIAM BERGE: Just not wanting to go or anything like that?

JANIS CURLS: No I didn't want to go I wanted to stay home and hibernate really and my grades went down. In fact you know if you went back and looked at my grades of my freshman and sophomore year they were they weren't good, but my junior and senior year they came up.

WILLIAM BERGE: What made the difference?

JANIS CURLS: Maturity I think.


JANIS CURLS: And, and, and.

WILLIAM BERGE: [coughing]

JANIS CURLS: The feeling that you know hey I've got to get out of this I've got 33:00to pull myself out of this. I've always been a survivor you know? And, and I think that comes from my up brining to. I think I'm a smart-aleck.

WILLIAM BERGE: So you were in high school when you meet your husband?


WILLIAM BERGE: How did you meet him?

JANIS CURLS: He was a teacher going to one of the little country one room school and I meet him in Blue Heron.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh how close, where was the school?

JANIS CURLS: It was up on the mountain.

WILLIAM BERGE: It was a county school wasn't it?

JANIS CURLS: Yes, it was a county school.

WILLIAM BERGE: When you went to the school say at Cooperative was that school owned by Sterns Company?

JANIS CURLS: Yes. It became a county school before I finished, but at the time that I started it was.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was the uh were there many how many churches were in Cooperative?


WILLIAM BERGE: What was it?

JANIS CURLS: It was uh United Baptist Church.

WILLIAM BERGE: Were there any churches in Blue Heron?

JANIS CURLS: Yes one United Baptist Church.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was your father involved, was that because of your father?

JANIS CURLS: The one in Co-Op was built primarily because of my father and the 34:00one in Blue Heron was already there when we went there but he become very involved and kept it going as long as he was there. But I'm sure they have services now.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now you left there in 57 I guess you left Cooperative I mean Blue Heron in 57 or so.


WILLIAM BERGE: 58, when did your folks leave there?

JANIS CURLS: Let's see they left in 69.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did could you tell the difference in the way your mother reacted to the two camps?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes, yes. She was uh she was depressed in Blue Heron, and Blue Heron because of the way that it is made the camp uh the setting for the camp.

WILLIAM BERGE: Right between the creek and the mine.


WILLIAM BERGE: Right between the river and the mountain.

JANIS CURLS: Between the two mountains the coal dust would, would just 35:00practically suffocate you and there was no way you could hang out a wash and expect it to be clean when you brought it in, there was no way you could keep your house clean , and and then the yard areas for the houses were practically none existent.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you notice, was, was your house as nice as nice in Blue Heron as it was in Cooperative?

JANIS CURLS: Yes the houses were nice.

WILLIAM BERGE: It was newer.

JANIS CURLS: But you know it just it was and of course my mother had asthma and being close to the river and being uh she's allergic she's allergic to coal dust and she's allergic to dampness.

WILLIAM BERGE: just perfect for her wasn't it?

JANIS CURLS: Oh it was, it really was [laughing].But uh but we uh the yard I mean you couldn't even mow the yard because the yard was so full of rocks you know all kinds of rocks. And a lot of people didn't even have a year, there houses were right on the road. So its, it was not the ideal situation.

WILLIAM BERGE: Jan do you remember uh describe the two houses you lived in one 36:00the first on describe the one in Cooperative and make some judgments on how nice the house you thought it was and all that kind of stuff and then the one in Blue Heron.

JANIS CURLS: Well it was uh the one in Co-Op was a two story house. We had three bedroom and a living room, and a kitchen, and two porches, and a bath we had a bath. And we had uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Those pictures that they had of the McCrery County pictorial history your house is in that picture isn't it?

JANIS CURLS: Yes it the one.

WILLIAM BERGE: On the left up there?

JANIS CURLS: Well its says in in that pictorial history that the J.P Simpson 37:00house is the one in the four front but it isn't that's the superintendent's house. That is the hose designated as the superintendent's house and it was consider I guess the nicest house in the community and we had uh we had a nice yard with trees and in it was. I thought it was pretty well you know compared to the other houses.

WILLIAM BERGE: Well compared to what people were lived in McCrery County it would have been a nice house.

JANIS CURLS: Yes, yes. And my mother had a cleaning lady that came every week.

WILLIAM BERGE: Who was she?

JANIS CURLS: Her name was Nancy Craft she was an old maid the lived down in White Oak Junction.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh yeah I know where that is.

JANIS CURLS: And uh I think she's still living, but she became part of our family I mean we treated her just like we did the test she just became a family member because my mother became ill and she had to start coming like three or four days a week. But uh but it was the furniture and it was not all that good you know because with that many kids they couldn't afford real new furniture.

WILLIAM BERGE: There were a lot of other house in Cooperative besides yours were they nice?

JANIS CURLS: [sighs]

WILLIAM BERGE: Or was there a big difference between your father's house and a 38:00miner's house?

JANIS CURLS: Well uh as far as the room yes, but now there were certain house that had maybe less children than mom and dad had that had well kept it nicer you know with newer furniture and everything but as far as room, and the yard space, and the privacy, and the garden.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did the [unclear] keep the houses up pretty good?

JANIS CURLS: Yes my mother could call anytime and they would come and fix what ever needed fixed, they could also painted every week.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where did the people come from who fixed it?

JANIS CURLS: They came from Sterns they rode the train down.

WILLIAM BERGE: But there was a crew of people that did this kind of stuff. How about at Cooperative, I mean at Blue Heron? Houses would have been newer there if the camp was newer.

JANIS CURLS: The house was newer and the house was built along the same lines as 39:00the one in Co-op, but and I guess this goes back to having to move at the time that I had to move I never felt that it was as pretty because there was no yard because there was no, very little privacy because you were so closed in, and the rail road track ran right alongside the house which in Co-op that wasn't true the rail road track was pretty far removed from the houses.

WILLIAM BERGE: When your brothers and sisters left as they got older your brothers and sisters left uh how did the family react? Did they want them to leave, I don't mean did they want to leave, but did they want to go out and do things or was your mother sort of upset that her children were leaving her?

JANIS CURLS: Well I think I think she missed them but she realized that they couldn't stay there you know anything did stay there they would probably be there the rest of their lives or in the county.

WILLIAM BERGE: What did they do?


WILLIAM BERGE: They didn't stay? They worked for the mines as they got older or did they leave when they got older?

JANIS CURLS: One of them stayed the one that's handicapped, and he worked on in 40:00the like in the bath house and places like that but all of us have have left and I think I think well just to go down the list Fred Lee became a teacher an art teacher.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where did he go to school at after he left Berea High School?

JANIS CURLS: Well he didn't go to Berea.


JANIS CURLS: He he spent the two years at Co-Op and then he went into the army.


JANIS CURLS: And he was in World War I, World War II and then uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where did he go to college?

JANIS CURLS: Then he came out and he went to he went to the University of Tennessee for a while and then he went to University of Ohio and then he went to Miami University and did his masters work.


JANIS CURLS: Uh huh. So he's uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: He's a teacher?

JANIS CURLS: Well he's, he has, he's deceased.

WILLIAM BERGE: Uh huh but he was a teacher.

JANIS CURLS: We was an art teacher.

WILLIAM BERGE: Alright go through the other ones now.

JANIS CURLS: Frank spent twenty-two years in the navy and uh then he came out 41:00and he bought the International House of Pancakes in Las Vegas and he has since invested in little shopping centers and he's a millionaire.


JANIS CURLS: Uh huh, and then Vernan is the one that's handicapped and he has uh he worked in around he didn't work in the mines but he worked around the mines until he became disabled he's um he's retired now. And then Cletus is the vice president for Northern Power Lines in California but he spent twenty-four years in the air force.


JANIS CURLS: And then my sister Gene is a uh advertising executive for a uh CBS affiliate station in Ashville, North Carolina. And then Don is uh he's in the mines but not its not in McCrery County he's with Conciliated Coal Company uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where does he live at?

JANIS CURLS: He lives Haroget, Tennessee and that's you know its its fairly 42:00close to where the mine side is and he's a Forman for that mine company, and then myself uh do you want me to tell what I do?

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah, yeah.

JANIS CURLS: Okay, I'm the director of Big Brother Big Sister and I'm also uh the project director of a home for status offenders and runaways in Pulaski County which is Summerset, and then George is a long distance truck driver.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where does he live?

JANIS CURLS: Up in Nashville, Tennessee so that's the list.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah now and of course you've been a teacher for number of years.

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes uh huh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Tell me this Jan, was it I guess it was fairly common for boys to go into the service to get out of the the coal mining areas wasn't it?

JANIS CURLS: Yes it was because uh well uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you know a lot of men besides your bothers who just who went into the services just to get away?

JANIS CURLS: Just about everybody went uh that well I remember as growing up it 43:00was uh when the boys became of age the boys they and their friends would go make their trip to the recruiter and tried to get in you know which ever branch of service they choose, and all my brothers were in the armed services at one time.

WILLIAM BERGE: Except the one.

JANIS CURLS: Except the one that was handicapped.

WILLIAM BERGE: And of course being in the service helped all of them escape so to speak.

JANIS CURLS: Well yes because really.

WILLIAM BERGE: They went to school after that.

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh mom and dad because of the size of their family could not afford to send us to college.

WILLIAM BERGE: How about your sister, how'd she get away?

JANIS CURLS: She married.

WILLIAM BERGE: how old was she?

JANIS CURLS: Right out of high school.

WILLIAM BERGE: About seventeen?

JANIS CURLS: Uh she was eighteen and she married.

WILLIAM BERGE: Practically and old maid wasn't she?

JANIS CURLS: Well she went to she went to live with my brother my older brother 44:00Fred Lee and his wife in Ohio. And she met somebody up there and they got married and it turned out to be a bad marriage, but she uh worked in a pottery making pottery for oh three or four years and then she took some classes at Ohio State and uh she's oh I guess she probably got maybe a year of college and she she's a very um extraverted type of individual and she got involved in working at newspaper in Carlton, Ohio in advertising and she's just gone up the ladder from there.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now tell me this you uh you mentioned the fact that you married very young and divorced and your sister married very young and divorced can you think of any other girls who you knew in the coal towns who married very young and got divorced?

JANIS CURLS: Most of the girls that I knew I knew in the coal towns that married very young have uh stayed in the county and stayed with their husbands.

WILLIAM BERGE: Maybe because they so trapped there or?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah I think that's a lot of it.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did they mostly marry young?



WILLIAM BERGE: So maybe in a curios way even though a lot of you were contented when you were there something must have been nagging at you that sort of find a way to get out of there very quickly whether it would be good if be a boy and join the service or a girl getting married that sort of thing. How did your mother react to you and your sister marrying young?

JANIS CURLS: I think well she was acceptable uh and I'll tell you what we were uh and I think it goes back to their upbringing. They married young or.

WILLIAM BERGE: They married young?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh. They married young or or you know it kind of goes back.

WILLIAM BERGE: Well she thought it was the thing for you to do I guess.

JANIS CURLS: Well yes and and I remember, and this this I don't want to take 46:00anything away from my parents because they were good parents, but I remember when I was in high school especially in my junior and senior school and I was really making good grades and I was really trying and I and I told my mother that I wanted to go to college and she said "Your dad won't send you to college".

WILLIAM BERGE: Because you're a girl?

JANIS CURLS: Because I was a girl. Because it would be a waste and he he she said "He will send the boys but he won't send you". So I kind of felt I had a I guess I kind of had felt defeated at that time.

WILLIAM BERGE: When you married young did your husband know you wanted to go to college eventually?


WILLIAM BERGE: Did he like the idea or not?

JANIS CURLS: Yes and no. He uh I think he agreed with it but he uh I don't I think he felt like it would be competition if I if I went.

WILLIAM BERGE: And then we wouldn't be.

JANIS CURLS: he wouldn't be as.

WILLIAM BERGE: Secured with you.

JANIS CURLS: Right and he would be uh he wouldn't have as much control on, which he didn't.

WILLIAM BERGE: He's right wasn't he?

JANIS CURLS: he was. Yeah he was [laughing]. I think he saw what it would be like you know.

WILLIAM BERGE: Jan of the people you knew in Cooperative when you were a girl 47:00about what percentage of them would the children of those families have done as well as say as you and your brothers and sisters have done?

JANIS CURLS: What percentage?

WILLIAM BERGE: Well that's hard to say.

JANIS CURLS: I would say no more than twenty percent of them; I would say it's not that high. I'm not.

WILLIAM BERGE: You say about twenty percent of them eventually went to college maybe?

JANIS CURLS: Oh I don't think there was twenty percent that went to college.


JANIS CURLS: I think that would have been ten or fifteen.


JANIS CURLS: But I think twenty percent of them that went on left and went on and they became good responsible citizens you know had fairly decent jobs, and most of them wound up in factories though or or something like that.

WILLIAM BERGE: Your brothers particularly but even you sister who had gone away and when they come back say rather to see your mother and father, do they come back very often?



WILLIAM BERGE: Do they ever come back?

JANIS CURLS: Oh I'd say they average coming back every once or two years. With the exception now George comes, the youngest.

WILLIAM BERGE: The youngest one yeah.

JANIS CURLS: He comes oh maybe he comes very often like he comes down every two or three months.

WILLIAM BERGE: He was in the National Guard wasn't he?


WILLIAM BERGE: I talked to somebody who knew him at one time.

JANIS CURLS: He's a character. They all are.

WILLIAM BERGE: They asked me, they asked me if you know uh I think it may have been on that the first time I did you interview they saw your maiden name and asked if you had a brother that was in the National Guard and I figured it was your younger brother. The older ones that have come back on occasion do they ever go down to look at Cooperative?


WILLIAM BERGE: Does that surprise you?

JANIS CURLS: No it doesn't surprise me because I never go, and I live.

WILLIAM BERGE: How long has it been since you've been back there?

JANIS CURLS: Oh I's say it's been ten, ten years at least, and I'm close you 49:00know? And I go visit my parents at least twice a week, and it wouldn't be that much out of the way to run down there, but it's very very depressing and it is for them. So we just I remember uh my brother Frank came to visit, I'm trying to somebody in the family died it wasn't my brother it was somebody else and he came home and he and I just drove down a long and it just we we cried.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did uh did you have a post office in Cooperative when you lived there?


WILLIAM BERGE: Did you have one at Blue Heron?


WILLIAM BERGE: Of course the only post office there in recent years was the one at Bell Farms and that's closed now.


WILLIAM BERGE: Um that, the business of going back uh have you been, what's the last time you've been back to Blue Heron?

JANIS CURLS: Oh I haven't been to Blue Heron I guess in uh fifteen years.


WILLIAM BERGE: I went down there last summer.

JANIS CURLS: I, I just you know I keep saying to myself I should go. And really I should and but I I just its just one of those things you don't really I guess you know you should and you feel like well maybe, maybe I will.

WILLIAM BERGE: Do your children ever ask about taking them back there?


WILLIAM BERGE: Do you ever talk to them about living in Cooperative?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes they you know I talk to them about it.

WILLIAM BERGE: But they aren't interested in seeing it?

JANIS CURLS: Well they're interested in seeing Co-Op but and I really think they are interested in seeing Blue Heron but I think they want me to make the first step. Let's go.

WILLIAM BERGE: Of course you say nicer things about Co-Op than you did about Blue Heron.

JANIS CURLS: Oh I'm sure I have [laughing] because of my well it's obvious you know you said it was obvious to you.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah and it always has been the times I've heard you talk about 51:00the two places. Blue Heron sounds more picturesque then if you know about Devils Jump you'd think that maybe people would really like to see that but I guess they don't, do they?

JANIS CURLS: Well uh the people who have never had to live there would like to see it.

WILLIAM BERGE: How about your father, does he ever go back to those places?


WILLIAM BERGE: How long since he's been back in there? Do you have any idea?

JANIS CURLS: Oh I'd say a couple of years. He's been to Co-Op he goes to Co-Op to church occasionally.


JANIS CURLS: But I'd say it's been longer than that since he's been to Blue Heron; it's been a long time.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was he still working at Blue Heron when they moved to Revelo?


WILLIAM BERGE: Why did they move? Because your mother?

JANIS CURLS: Well yes and he was getting ready to get a position as uh as the uh 52:00he was going to take on some more responsibilities where he was going to have to travel between two mining sites.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where was the other one?

JANIS CURLS: Paint Cleft.

WILLIAM BERGE: That a [unclear] away.


WILLIAM BERGE: Did he [unclear] at Paint Cliff?

JANIS CURLS: Uh huh. Now there weren't very many houses there?

WILLIAM BERGE: What was considered to be the best Sterns Town besides Sterns itself?

JANIS CURLS: I have heard this now [unclear] I've heard that Co-Op was considered to be the prettiest.


JANIS CURLS: Uh and the best.


JANIS CURLS: But now whether that is true or not I don't know. But now I have heard that and it was pretty in its hay day it was pretty and it it was as fairly clean and it had a lot of community spirt and you know I'll look at Summerset Kentucky today and if they had as much community spirit and as much concern for each other as the people in Co-Op did when I was growing up it would be really be an outstanding town.

WILLIAM BERGE: Jan, do you remember much thievery?

JANIS CURLS: No [laughing]

WILLIAM BERGE: You didn't worry about your house being broken into or anything 53:00like that? Do you remember much drinking?

JANIS CURLS: A little bit not a whole lot there was you know everybody has their town drunk I guess.


JANIS CURLS: And there was uh there was some guys who I remember they would they would leave and go up North and get jobs and they get them a little money and buy them a new car and come down and go around the ball get drunk and go around the ball diamond you know real fast an show off their cars show off you know they had new clothes real slicked up and everything. I remember that because it would be it would be kind of scary but it would be fun to watch them.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did they have a jail at Cooperative?


WILLIAM BERGE: Uh did they have many company police?

JANIS CURLS: They had yeah they had some company police but they they didn't live down there.

WILLIAM BERGE: There wasn't any need for them.

JANIS CURLS: No there really wasn't you know everybody kind of took care of you 54:00know their own problems and if if there was some thievery they usually it was the men had a meeting and took care of it themselves.

WILLIAM BERGE: Do you ever remember uh talking with other uh young people about leaving and what you were thinking going to do when you get old.

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes yes.

WILLIAM BERGE: What did they talk about, do you remember?

JANIS CURLS: Oh well the girls usually talked about they wanted to be a teacher or they want to get married that was the truth.

WILLIAM BERGE: Or a nurse?

JANIS CURLS: Nurses well we talked about being a nurse but I think we kind of felt like that was kind far above.

WILLIAM BERGE: You didn't know any nurses you knew teachers I guess that was it.

JANIS CURLS: Right, the only nurse we knew was the health nurse who came down every so often to the school.

WILLIAM BERGE: I guess really your role models that you really admired were teachers probably?

JANIS CURLS: Oh yes. Yes. And we uh the boys talked about going into the armed services or going into the mines that was really just about as far as we could get. Nobody really thought about being a doctor or a lawyer anything like that because.

WILLIAM BERGE: You didn't know except Doctor Simpson.

JANIS CURLS: Well and we kind of felt like that was beyond our reach you know we 55:00came our families were poor and we knew it and there was no TV so we couldn't look at TV and see what we could do.

WILLIAM BERGE: I'm trying I'm trying get now I do know you told me on another tape that you did have a TV in.

JANIS CURLS: Blue Heron.

WILLIAM BERGE: Blue Heron. You were impressed with that and everything. Do you remember Jan, uh I'm trying got think about what what was the sense of really. When your father was superintendent say at Co-op did you think he did as good of a job as Dr. Simpson?

JANIS CURLS: Yes [laughing] we uh and I guess I really felt like.

WILLIAM BERGE: He was in charge?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah and I guess I felt like to he he was as intelligent as Dr. Simpson and I think he is.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now I don't mean that so much but I was just wondering one of the 56:00reason that maybe some of those boys wanted to stock coal mines is that they figured that somehow they would be superintendent or.

JANIS CURLS: Well that' true.


JANIS CURLS: But you know it's not like right now the doctors of the community are the you know the toppish now. You know and they make the most money, and people think of them as as some of the most intelligent in the community and you just didn't feel that way there.

WILLIAM BERGE: When uh you were young and you remember talking about things how did uh the people generally feel about the company?


WILLIAM BERGE: In other words people didn't think that this was a bad company we're stuck here [unclear] or anything like that.


WILLIAM BERGE: Did you remember seeing some of the big shots from Sterns whenever they come in?

JANIS CURLS: Yeah and they came to the house usually.

WILLIAM BERGE: Which ones did you most like and remember best?

JANIS CURLS: I remember Mr. Butler I remember him real well because he and dad were real good friends.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you like Mr. Butler?


JANIS CURLS: Oh yes I liked him real well.

WILLIAM BERGE: How would he treat children when he came? Did he know your names and that kind of stuff?

JANIS CURLS: Well he knew our names uh he would usually eat at the house and uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was there a restaurant in Co-Op?

JANIS CURLS: No [laughing]. But uh or he would have coffee or something you know? And he would sit down in the living room with Dad and they'd talk.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did he ever spend the night there?

JANIS CURLS: Not not that I can remember he may have, but I would think that if he was going to spend the night he spend it in the boarding house. You know that's what they called it a boarding house rather than a hotel. But that you know they certain be there.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was Frank Thomas with the company when you lived in the coal town?

JANIS CURLS: No, Frank Thomas was a dentists.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah I knew that.

JANIS CURLS: And uh no he had no connection with the company at that time.

WILLIAM BERGE: Not when you lived in the company town?

JANIS CURLS: Well he did well when he became uh he came into the company I think the second year we lived in Blue Heron.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did he ever come down there, do you remember coming down there?


JANIS CURLS: Yeah I remember him coming maybe once or twice.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was he as friendly as Mr. Butler had been?

JANIS CURLS: He was friendly because he, he was a relative.

WILLIAM BERGE: oh he was a relative of yours?


WILLIAM BERGE: Oh I didn't know that.


WILLIAM BERGE: The uh how's he related to you?

JANIS CURLS: He was related through my mother, my mother was a Thomas.

WILLIAM BERGE: Oh I didn't know that. Where'd he.

JANIS CURLS: Their fathers were brothers.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where'd he come from when he came to uh Sterns?

JANIS CURLS: His dad came to Sterns as the company dentist. And they came from Scot County, Tennessee.

WILLIAM BERGE: Then he went and became a dentist then came back to Sterns?


WILLIAM BERGE: And then he came back to Sterns. Are are you surprised he uh sort of changed careers?

JANIS CURLS: Well I remember at the time I was surprised because I you know he 59:00was he was really a good dentists at that time and of course he's he's sort of out grown it now he not kept up with the new things. At the time I was, of course I was just a kid but I was still surprised that he would that he would do that. You know because I guess I felt like he was kind of dedicated to being a dentist working on people's teeth and all this.

WILLIAM BERGE: It was a noble thing.

JANIS CURLS: Yes sort of like that.

WILLIAM BERGE: We already uh any other uh big company men you remember besides those two?

JANIS CURLS: Let's see I remember some of them, I remember the, and I don't know if these were big company men or not.

WILLIAM BERGE: They were to you anyway

JANIS CURLS: Yeah, the men on the train I remember the engineer to me was a big person and I remember him Mr. Bales, I remember him real well. And uh and I remember a Mr. Henderson and I remember a onetime meeting Mr. Sterns that was the only time I met him, but uh I believe there was a Mr. Basset I met to, but they they were all nice to us when they came down.

WILLIAM BERGE: When you finally got out of McCrery County when you left McCrery 60:00County with your husband did you ever think [interview fads out]

WILLIAM BERGE: This is a continuation of the interview with Mrs. Janis Curls on January 26, 1981 at 10 am.

WILLIAM BERGE: When you left with your first husband asked if you ever thought you would return to McCrery County you said yes and you were going to tell me why.

JANIS CURLS: Well primarily because my ex-husband wanted to come back to the county.


JANIS CURLS: He he was very interested in coming back to the county not to the coal mining camps, but to Sterns he really liked Sterns and he wanted to he wanted to settle there.

WILLIAM BERGE: Any other things that you think I should have asked you that I haven't asked you? Do you think that uh if you had been me you'd have some question that I really should have asked but I haven't?

JANIS CURLS: I think you should have asked how I feel about uh the education I 61:00had got in the county and coal camp.

WILLIAM BERGE: Yeah how about it? [unclear] you mentioned a couples of those teachers.

JANIS CURLS: Well I think it was good because uh the teachers that I had I cannot remember ever having one teacher in the coal mining camp that I didn't consider a good teacher. In fact most of the grammar that I learned I learned in coal mining camps I did not learn in high school at all.


JANIS CURLS: Because I had much better teachers in Co-Op than I ever had in high school and pretty close to college.

WILLIAM BERGE: Sure I understand.

JANIS CURLS: I had some good teachers in college, but uh the there was such a 62:00close kinship I think between the teacher and the kids. The teacher went out and played with us you know? Uh if it was a bad day and we had recess we stayed in the room and we would sit around and talk you know? And we would talk about each other. And uh I don't know they they motivated us to want to learn and we did learn a lot.

WILLIAM BERGE: You mentioned that the woman from Pennsylvania your first grade teacher did she live in a hotel or did she live with somebody?

JANIS CURLS: I think she well in fact she I know she did, she commuted back and forth on the train every day.


JANIS CURLS: She lived in Sterns somewhere.

WILLIAM BERGE: Probably in a hotel.

JANIS CURLS: Probably. Because I remember she occasionally she would spend the night at some of the student houses. Not not very often.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did your folks ever have her over for dinner or anything like that?

JANIS CURLS: Yes yes they did.

WILLIAM BERGE: Was that a big deal?

JANIS CURLS: Well it was for me.

WILLIAM BERGE: That's what I mean, yeah.

JANIS CURLS: Uh it was uh she came to see my parents because of me uh she made a point to have a conference with them because she wanted to tell them how intelligent I was because in her opinion I was the most intelligent child.

WILLIAM BERGE: You were the star.

JANIS CURLS: Child in her class, and uh that's something you don't forget. I 63:00often wonder what happened to her and how I would like to write her and tell her you know what I have done with my life you know?

WILLIAM BERGE: When you when you first started to go to Sterns and Whitely City who were the people that you meet there that sort of impressed you when you were little? That you know you would say now there's somebody who's really something, do you remember any people like that?

JANIS CURLS: I remember Frank Thomas impressed me. You know even though he was a relative he still impressed me. Because he was a dentist and like I said I thought he was I thought he was dedicated to helping people.

WILLIAM BERGE: Now you didn't go to the Sterns High School, but you went to the county high school?

JANIS CURLS: I went to the county high school and also Frank Thomas' mother 64:00impressed me. She impressed me because of of her uh ability she she had ability she and this still not taking anything away from my parents but by visiting in her home I got I I realized that people needed manners.

WILLIAM BERGE: And that was more then what you knew?

JANIS CURLS: Than what I knew and what I saw every day you know? People needed manners and the uh the kind of a gentle manner to social graces in another words, and I think she impressed me because of that. And then I think another person that really impressed me was Lester Cooper who was a teacher down in the camp and then he was also when I came to high school I had him in high school to.


JANIS CURLS: He transferred.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did you say he's still alive?

JANIS CURLS: He's still alive, and he'd be an interesting person to talk to in fact he did on a paper on the history McCrery County.

WILLIAM BERGE: Where does he live?

JANIS CURLS: He lives in Whitely City and he uh and you can tell him that I suggested him if you like, but he uh.

WILLIAM BERGE: Does he live by himself?

JANIS CURLS: No he's married.

WILLIAM BERGE: But I mean he lives [unclear].


JANIS CURLS: Yes and he has a lot of he had a lot of articles in his home, historical articles. He would be really interesting. He impressed me also uh I think he helped to motivate me to do something with my like.


JANIS CURLS: And then I had a teacher at the county high school her name was Bricka Ball and I don't know if she's still living or not. He husband was the principal, but her husband didn't impress me but she did she was a math teacher and she was a very strong women. She was, in fact he had a heart attack a massive heart attack while uh shortly after I left high school and she took over as principal and taught at the same time and she handled it very well.


JANIS CURLS: But she uh, I'm not a mathematician and I don't like math, but I 66:00liked it under her.


JANIS CURLS: So she impressed me to.

WILLIAM BERGE: So you did really meet some role models in in the county not necessarily in the coal town in the coal camp but in the town itself.

JANIS CURLS: Yes, well I think I think I met some role models in the camp for everyday living and getting along with people.


JANIS CURLS: Sometimes, and I think uh we had a company doctor before Dr. 67:00Simpson came um no I guess he came I'm trying to think I guess he came after Dr. Simpson yeah he came after Dr. Simpson, Dr. Albert and he he and his wife were Mormons and they're still living. My parents hear from them very often and in fact they have been in several places of the world doing missionary work with other Mormons, but they uh she was nurse and he was a doctor and I think they impressed everybody. They were dedicated to.

WILLIAM BERGE: Did she wear a white pinafore?

JANIS CURLS: Yes she did.

WILLIAM BERGE: Were you interested in clothes when you were young living in the coal camp when you'd see people in clothes that you weren't use to seeing?

JANIS CURLS: Well I mean everybody wore the same thing.

WILLIAM BERGE: I meant people who visited or who came into the area or when you went into town or when you went to visit your brothers or sister.

JANIS CURLS: I can't remember being really interested in clothes until I became 68:00well in the eighth grade I went to visit my sister in Ohio and then I became interested in clothes, but my parents couldn't afford very many clothes. Like for instance when I was in high school I had one pair of shoes and one skirt maybe three blouses a pair of blue jeans and two or three pairs of socks and it wasn't hose it was body socks and that's really all they could afford. You know you would think being superintend he could afford a little bit more, but but you know they had.

WILLIAM BERGE: Too many children.

JANIS CURLS: To many kids and kids in school and kids they were having to help and you know things like that.


JANIS CURLS: Bills, things like that.

WILLIAM BERGE: Jan, I want to thank you for uh talking with me I think these two interviews I had with you are going to be a big help for me and not only learning something about Co-Op and Blue Heron but also learning about some of the other people I have to interview. Thank you.

JANIS CURLS: You're welcome.

[End of Interview]