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William H Berge Oral History Center

Coal Company Towns Project

Interview with Jan Curls

January 24, 1983 (1983 oh 041)

Conducted by William Berge

Transcribed by Laurie Wilcox

WILLIAM BERGE: The following is an unrehearsed taped interview with Mrs. Jan Curls of Somerset, Kentucky. The interview is conducted for by William Berge for the Oral History Center at Eastern Kentucky University. The interview is conducted in Mrs. Curls office in Somerset on January 24, 1983 at 3pm.


JAN CURLS: . . . Donavan's, yeah

BERGE: Jan I want to thank you for letting me come over here today. Some of these questions I ask you will be the same as questions I've asked you before. Some of them may be different. Now one reason I'm asking-I'll be asking for you to tell me these things again is that I want to have it on a clearer tape if possible some of it and. One of the tapes I did with you was inadvertently erased, so that's our problem. You might start by, ah, telling me, ah, your name, both your maiden name and your married name and ah the date which you were born if you'd -- if don't mind.

JAN CURLS: I don't mind. [Laughing] Okay my name is, ah, Jan Slaven Curls and I was born May the 23rd 1940.

BERGE: Where were you born?

CURLS: Co-Operative, Kentucky.

BERGE: You were born at home?


BERGE: Okay. Ah, just by the way of the record how do you spell, ah, what was your official, your, your ah, official legal name is it Jan?

CURLS: No, my legal name is Janice Kathleen Slaven. S-L-A-V-E-N.

BERGE: And Kathleen is spelled?


BERGE: Okay, and Janice is I-C-E?


BERGE: Okay. Ah what was your mother's maiden name?

CURLS: Betty Louise Thomas.

BERGE: And your fathers name?

CURLS: Joseph Castalo Slaven

BERGE: Spell Castalo.


BERGE: How was your father most commonly known as, what was his, what did people call him? They didn't call him Joseph . . .


BERGE: Cack?


BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: C-A-C-K I suppose

BERGE: Uh Huh. Uh, Jan when you were born in Co-Operative, you were born in-at home, and how many older brothers and sisters did you have then?

CURLS: Oh let me see, I had, ah, five older brothers and one older sister.

BERGE: Okay. And did you have any siblings younger than you, born after you?


BERGE: Where was he born? I know it was a male, when - where was he born?

CURLS: He was born at home also in Co-Operative.

BERGE: In Co-Operative, okay. When uh, of those children how many were born in Co-Operative?

CURLS: Let's see, all were born in Co-Operative with the exception of the two older ones and they were born in, ah, Tennessee.

BERGE: Before your father went to work for Stearns?

CURLS: Right. Um hm.

BERGE: Okay. When your father went to work for Stearns where did he go to work first? Do you remember?

CURLS: I, I think he went to work at Co-op.

BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: Co-Operative first of all.

BERGE: Okay so when they came to Kentucky they went to Co-op?

CURLS: Yes, uh huh.

BERGE: Okay. Now what year did you leave Co-Operative?

CURLS: We left in 1954.

BERGE: Okay so you were fourteen?


BERGE: Alright, and then, and you moved to uh?

CURLS: Blue Heron.

BERGE: Blue Heron at that time. Now. . . .

CURLS: I was des-devastated. [laughing]

BERGE: Tell me this. When you went to Blue Heron how long did you stay there?

CURLS: Well I stayed there until I was married and then Mom and Dad stayed there quite a few yea-well let's see, they stayed there until 1960, 61.

BERGE: Okay. You said you were devastated when your family moved from Co-Operative to Blue Heron, how come? I mean, you mind telling me what there was about the move was disturbing? I mean to say, besides the fact that you were moving from the place you had lived all your life and that's always a disturbing thing for a child.

CURLS: Well I was uh, I had attended school there all my life, I was an adolescent just entering into the beginning stages of, ah, of adolescence. Ah, the ah, had finished the eighth grade and was getting ready to go into high school, to the county high school.

BERGE: In Stearns?

CURLS: In Whitley City.

BERGE: In Whitley City I mean.

CURLS: And I would be, ah, totally separated from all of the, my peers that I had known all of my life.

BERGE: Um hm

CURLS: And there were, and in Blue Heron there were very few children my age.

BERGE: Um hm

CURLS: There were very few children who attended school and there were very -- the ones who did attend school I think I was the, well I know I was the only girl who went to high school from down there.

BERGE: Alright now, both in Co-Operative and Blue Heron were company towns of the Stearns Company and, uh, of course there was a difference in size like, do you have any idea of how large Co-Operative was?

CURLS: I have n-I have no idea in numbers, I just have an idea in, in, in my minds eye of what I remember and - of seeing a lot of people in upper and lower camp with people living in all the houses and also in the middle camp and, ah, the community activities that were going on with, you know, a lot that were connected with school and with the church. They had a school of their own.


CURLS: Which Blue Heron did not have.

BERGE: Alright, how large was your class, do you remember? Like how many, do you have any idea how many children were in your class?

CURLS: In the eighth grade there was, there were twenty-five.

BERGE: Okay, so that was a fairly large town than. . .

CURLS: Uh Huh.

BERGE: Twenty-five children. And were most of the classes about that size?

CURLS: Most of them were if anything larger.

BERGE: Uh Huh, and a, if you-there had, if there had been a school at Blue Heron how many would have been in your class there?

CURLS: Probably two.

BERGE: You and one other huh?

CURLS: Un Huh.

BERGE: Alright, uh. . .

CURLS: If I happened to be lucky. [Laughing]

BERGE: Yeah, yeah. Now, it's hard to try to state this but, I guess, uh, had you heard about Blue Heron before you moved there?

CURLS: No, I had not.

BERGE: So you weren't exactly knowing what to expect?

CURLS: I wasn't really prepared if that's what you are saying. [Laughing]

BERGE: Yeah, yeah did your father kind of sugar coat it or did he-

CURLS: No, I . . .

BERGE: tell you why?

CURLS: Well he didn't sugar coat it, I mean, ah, we were brought up to do what he told us to do and my mother accepted going with him wherever his position happened to take him.

BERGE: Okay. Uh, you said there was a middle camp, upper camp and lower camp, which one did you live in?

CURLS: We lived in the middle camp.

BERGE: Alright, can you. . .

CURLS: See I was a superintendent's daughter. [Laughing].

BERGE: Okay, so can you tell me the difference, as well as you can remember, in the three camps, within Co-Operative. Like, was, was ah the middle camp the best place to live?


BERGE: Um hm. Which was the next best?

CURLS: The lower camp was the next best.

BERGE: What's the difference between the lower camp and the upper camp and the middle camp? Um, what kind of distinctions were there?

CURLS: [laughing] Well the distinctions were in the-to talk about the upper camp, most of the homes were not painted they were just kind of brown clapboard.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: And they were very ah, ah, they were not, um, they were very sparsely situated.

BERGE: Scattered, in other words?

CURLS: Yes, very scattered. And they were, they were uh, ran along much closer to the creek bed and had, uh, sometimes, I think, in certain years maybe possibly had some flooding. There, they were also awfully close to the main, ah, road which created, because it was a dirt and gravel road, created a lot of dust.


CURLS: Uh, they were kind of, um, I guess kind of isolated, from, you know there was a, a, a pretty long, well I wouldn't say. It seems long to me, you know looking back, it wouldn't be long going by car now but walking between the middle camp and the upper camp was a pretty good walk.

BERGE: It was?

CURLS: But the school was located in the upper camp.

BERGE: Oh, it was?

CURLS: Yes, it was.

BERGE: Um Hm. Where was the store?

CURLS: The store was in the middle camp.

BERGE: Where was the hotel?

CURLS: In the middle camp.

BERGE: Uh huh. Now where was the doctor's offices?

CURLS: In the middle camp.

BERGE: Okay. Now uh, what about the lower camp now?

CURLS: Well the lower. . .

BERGE: That was next best, you said?

CURLS: Yes, the lower camp was more, I, I guess because it was, maybe I looked upon it as better because the houses were painted, they were nicer, the yards were nicer, it was closer in location to the middle camp so it was just an extension of the middle camp, probably. Well I know it was and, but the um, it was ah, the houses were much closer to the railroad track.

BERGE: Than the middle camp?

CURLS: Than the middle camp.

BERGE: How were they, uh, were did they look more like the middle camp houses than the upper camp houses did?

CURLS: Yes they did.

BERGE: Painted and kept better. Were they as large a house?

CURLS: No not quite, and most of them did not have a bathroom.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And none of the upper camp houses had bathrooms.

BERGE: Uh huh. Uh huh. Who, ah, decided where people would live, the superintendent? Do you know?

CURLS: I think it was the superintendent and I know that when Dad came it was kind of, the bosses of course took preference over the middle camp houses.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: The bosses and the superintendent and the doctor, and the store bookkeeper, and then. . .

BERGE: So there was sort of a hierarchy in the?

CURLS: . . . right, and then after that the houses were on a first come first serve basis.

BERGE: Now, when you ah, can you remember your first recollections of Blue Heron?

CURLS: Oh, [laughing] yes I remember.

BERGE: Could you possibly describe what they were or what you thought?

CURLS: Well, [laughing] first of all I think I thought this is a long way away from everything that I've ever known all my life, number one. Number two, I think I thought I will never get out of here. Ah, and of course being fourteen I guess I wondered what guy would ever want to date somebody who lived that far away and uh at that time very few kids, my age or even when I became 16 and 17, had their own car. So I felt like that I would never, never have an opportunity to probably leave and just really, you know, enjoy myself, which I didn't. And ah, also the house was made pretty much the same but there was no yard and we had a beautiful yard in Co-Operative and there was no really play area, to speak of, where you could play ball and do all these things, you know, that we did when we were at Co-Operative.

BERGE: How many of you were there at home when you were at uh . . .

CURLS: There were three of us.

BERGE: Uh huh. You were the middle?

CURLS: I was the oldest.

BERGE: Oh the oldest one.

CURLS: Um huh. And my mother was ill at the time and, and going there made her much worse. And this at, this gave my sister or my niece, which I call her my sister. . .

BERGE: Yeah, yeah.

CURLS:. . . because my parents reared her, uh gave us, uh, a lot of added responsibility and because the, the holler that the camp was in was so close and not very much land area the pockets of uh coal dust were kept pretty much within the area and of course they landed on the houses.

BERGE: Um Hm, and because of the atmosphere and everything it stayed in there.

CURLS: Right.

BERGE: Um hm. Well, when you ah, was it a pretty place when you went there. I know it's beautiful now, was it pretty then?

CURLS: Well, I didn't think so.

BERGE: Too busy, too much coal being mined and all . . .

CURLS: Well it, it was - in a child's eye who was being taken to a place that was totally alien naturally it wouldn't be pretty.

BERGE: Uh huh, uh huh.

CURLS: But. . .

BERGE: Were you at all enamored with the river being there?

CURLS: No, no I wasn't. I wasn't.

BERGE: Just another obstacle, the river was huh?

CURLS: Yes [laughing] I wasn't. The only. I mean I could see the beauty of the rocks and the river and the things around me but it didn't impress me at that time. It does now, and it did I'd say by the time that I became twenty or twenty-five or something like that.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: But at that time no I was not impressed.

BERGE: Well what was difference essentially in your life, particularly your social life, uh, can you contrast the two camps. Like what wer-what were you able to do for instance at Co-Operative that you weren't able to do at Blue Heron.

CURLS: Practically everything. [Laughing]

BERGE: What are some examples?

CURLS: Well okay, uh at Co-Operative I had a lot of girls, and boys too, that were my own age and we would meet down at the ball diamond down in the center of the middle camp and we would play ball or we would play 'bored on deck', which was a favorite game, at, during that time. 'Bored on deck' or we would play ah 'steal the bacon' or all these, and you know it would be. . .

BERGE: What were those games? What was 'bored on deck'?

CURLS: Well 'bored on deck' is you just have a rubber ball and a stick, you know. You only have one base and you hit the ball and try to get it to the, get to the base and get back, you know.

BERGE: And what was steal the bacon?

CURLS: And, steal the bacon is where you have a line in the middle and you have a group of people of about five feet on each side from the line and you have a tin can or something in the middle. And you call out numbers and somebody runs up and tries to steal the can, you know, with somebody else after them.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Ah, we would, but when we would have those games everybody would come down and play.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: You know, we would have not just kids but we would have some of the younger adults, would get in on it. Then we would have softball games or baseball games on Friday, I mean, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons that we could sit in our yards and watch, you know. If we wanted to. We could also go up in the wooded area on the other side of the tram track in the spring and pick wildflowers and make playhouses out of moss and wildflowers and without, you know, I mean, it was ah, it was so much more of an open area-

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: you know, you had. And we would go for walks and we'd walk up the railroad tracks or walk up to Jewel Kidd's store, and ah, there was just. . .

BERGE: In addition to the company store?

CURLS: Yes. There-and, yeah you would.

BERGE: Where which store would you rather go to when you were young?

CURLS: Well I'd rather go to the company store because it wouldn't cost any money, just charged it [laughing]

BERGE: Yeah. Where did they have more things?

CURLS: They had more things at the company store. But. . .

BERGE: Why did you go to Jewel Kidd's store then?

CURLS: Um, just to have a place to walk to and to ah, maybe, ah, eye some boy who maybe walk-was walking too.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Ah, also. . .

BERGE: You were sort of out from under the observation of the people that knew you, a little more there, you thought.

CURLS: Well no, she knew me. She knew us all.

BERGE: Yeah.

CURLS: But it was, it was just a form of socializing and entertainment to walk up to Jewels Kidd's from our house. And we would also go swimming at the Blue Hole and down at White Oak Junction, which, there's a place to swim at Blue Heron but it was much much more dangerous than the other two were.

BERGE: Because of the river?

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: Tell me this, when you remember, you know, you have much fonder memories, and I know this from talking to you the other times, in Co-Operative than you did in Blue Heron. What were the biggest reasons? Was it the size, or the accessibility to town or what, what was it?

CURLS: Of why I. . .

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: . . . like Co-Operative so much better? Well I think the main reason was the fact that Co-Operative was my home. Blue Heron was not. Probably had I grown up in Blue Heron such as I did at Co-Operative I would have felt that way about Blue Heron today rather than about Co-op.

BERGE: Do you have any friends that remember Blue Heron more affectionately than you do?

CURLS: My sister-in-law.

BERGE: She does?

CURLS: Yes. She lived down there much longer than I did.

BERGE: Did she live at Co-Operative too?


BERGE: Di-who, do you know of any others who, about your age, who lived both places?

CURLS: [laughing] no.

BERGE: You don't.

CURLS: [laughing] I don't know any that lived both places with the exception of myself and my brothers and sisters.

BERGE: Okay, Now, uh, what was the difference in your mother's life? Say what would you think, if I asked her, if she was here today and I asked her, what do you think she'd say if I asked her the difference in her life in Co-op than Blue Heron?

CURLS: Well, I think, ah, she had a lot of women friends at Co-Operative that would come and visit that would ah, she could visit them, go have coffee and sit around and talk. Ah, she also had a cleaning lady who came in twice a week and cleaned for at Co-Operative . . .

BERGE: Where was she from?

CURLS: She was from White Oak Junction. She would walk up.

BERGE: She lived out of the camp?

CURLS: Uh huh. And ah, she ah, mom I think, uh she felt better because of the, she's allergic to coal dust. And even thought there was coal dust at Co-op it was not as, as I said earlier, it was not in a close area as it was at Blue Heron. And I think ah, she was um, she felt enclosed, and I think there was something else that bothered my mother that she probably wouldn't tell you about. The former superintendent's wife that lived in Blue Heron had died there in that house and . . .


CURLS: . . . they had, someone had told my mother that it was because she was allergic to coal dust and the dampness and everything and it just, it, it killed her.

BERGE: Of course your mother was an asthmatic it always bothered her didn't it?

CURLS: Oh yes. Um hm. So, you know I'm sure that down deep inside those things bothered her a lot.

BERGE: Did you father make any special efforts to make Blue Heron livable for you compared, did he try any harder when he knew you were all dissatisfied?

CURLS: Oh yes, he got us a TV. We had never had a TV before and of course the only way we could have it was to have the antennae up on top of the mountain. Which was, it cost a, an awful lot of money for that time. You know, I don't remember, it seems like it was about $1200 to get the, the complete thing installed. And I guess that was, that helped but the cable was always coming loose with the wind and the rain and everything and we'd have to walk up the mountainside and reconnect it. [Laughing]

BERGE: And turn the antenna over to the . . .

CURLS: [laughing] Yeah. So it was, but he tried, he really tried and of course we attended church services down there, some. And it was not like going to church at Co-op.

BERGE: Smaller church?

CURLS: Well it's smaller and there just wasn't the camaraderie that there was at Co-op.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And I guess I still feel, well I still don't feel too good about Blue Heron.

BERGE: What's the difference in the two, the stores for instance?

CURLS: The store at Blue Heron was much smaller and did not have as much as the one at Co-op.

BERGE: Did uh, did they ever have an elementary school at Blue Heron?

CURLS: I think they did at one time, yes.

BERGE: But not when you lived there?

CURLS: No, huh uh.

BERGE: So everybody at Blue Heron regardless of what age they were, went into Whitley City, in school?

CURLS: Well Whitley City or Revelo. Revelo they had . . .

BERGE: Oh I see. . .

CURLS: To the elementary.

BERGE: Just like elementary school.

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: Like when you went to uh. . .

CURLS: Well see we left at 6:30 in the morning.

BERGE: That's what I was going to ask you.

CURLS: And we didn't get home until 5:30 in the afternoon.

BERGE: Alright, the ones that went to high school into Whitley City, from Co-op what was there schedule do you remember? You had some brothers and sisters who went that way so you might know.

CURLS: Ah, well my bro-[laughing] you know it's really strange but my brothers and sisters, all of them, ah, you know, the bus did not run to the high school from Co-Operative-

BERGE: Oh it didn't.

CURLS: for my brothers and sisters. They all went to high school wha-they either had to go to Whitley City and stay with someone-

BERGE: Boarded kind of?

CURLS: or ah, a lot of them went to Berea or the foundation school.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: And uh the bus had not been started very long at the time that . . .

BERGE: You went in?

CURLS: Well, I think it had been going on one year prior to the time that I would have started and I think they left about 7:20 or something like that.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: And they got back about four.

BERGE: Um huh. So it is, it was closer to town from Co-op?

CURLS: Well.

BERGE: I mean not closer to town but it was faster.

CURLS: It was faster.

BERGE: I think Blue Heron might be closer actually.

CURLS: I think Blue Heron is closer it's just that there, there was so, well I think ah, we picked up a lot of kids coming up to Revelo Elementary and then we would let some kids off and pick up some high school kids and then we would go out on Pig Skin Road. Which is another side road in the county and pick up a lot of people and bring them back to the elementary school and then, then we could go to the high school.

BERGE: Um hm. Now, in retrospect, I don't mean the way you felt about it when you were down there or anything, but in retrospect. Ah, what were the advantages and disadvantages that you had living in the company town?

CURLS: [laughing] Well the advantages I think my advantages, and maybe everybody didn't have these advantages. I had a set of parents who loved me dearly. And who made, ah, and I knew that they loved me, and they made things as, I felt like they trusted me and they made things as well as they could for us.


CURLS: Ah, the disadvantages, I think well and I think the other advantages too is I appreciate my upbringing and I appreciate the scenery and ah, and I feel, I feel privileged for having been reared in a coal mining camp. I fell like I have something that a lot of other people don't have.


CURLS: Ah. . .

BERGE: But do you think its bee-because there's been so much made recently of the coal camps or is it something you would have felt that way anyway?

CURLS: Oh, I've always felt that way. Well not always, I think I felt that way since I was thirty probably. The disadvantages I think are the social life the uh, not being able to ah, ah, for instance take piano lessons or dancing lessons and get involved in the cultural aspects of ah, ah, of a, um, lifestyle.

BERGE: Did anybody have a piano in Co-op, do you remember?

CURLS: We had a piano at church. But I think it was sold after a while.

BERGE: Who played it do you remember?

CURLS: Not very much of anybody because very few people knew how to play it.

BERGE: Uh huh. When ah, you lived at Co-op, for instance, did you think that you had ah, I hate to put modern stuff in you know because one of the things that's happened in recent years is that we're all becoming aware of the fact that women didn't, and females generally haven't been in the same shape as males. This is what everybody tells us and it appears that they're correct but, did you have any sense of that when you were a girl up in Co-op? Did you think that your brothers had a better deal than you did?

CURLS: Sure.

BERGE: In what way?

CURLS: [laughing] Well to give you an example, at home to give you one example, ah, my niece, or my-I'm going to call her my sister because I consider her my sister.

BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: She and I had the responsibility of ah, of always washing dishes and carrying in wood and carrying in coal and doing all, I mean, we, we knew we had to do it. My brother didn't have to do it, I mean he was given the responsibility but nobody did anything to him if he didn't do it.

BERGE: Uh huh. Of course that could have been the same anywhere.

CURLS: Uh, and. . .

BERGE: I'm thinking about primarily do you think that there were advantages in the community itself that they had things for boys that they didn't have for girls?

CURLS: No, not a whole lot. I think they had the advantage of the boy possibly being able to work in the mines when he got old enough.

BERGE: Because. . .

[Phone rings, tape turned off then resumes]

BERGE: Did ah, do you think maybe girls were ah. I hate to put words in your mouth but I'm trying to remember some things you told me before. Do you think girls maybe were just a little more trapped there than boys?

CURLS: Yes I think so because boys could go to armed services or they could go to work in the mines and the girls were expected to just get married and start having kids and keeping house for the people who went to the mines and went to the armed services.

BERGE: Your recollections of Co-op when you were younger and when you had acquaintances that were over there, what kind of ah, marriages did these girls have that were there, did they get married early? Did they marry local boys or, h--how did they meet people?

CURLS: Well most of them got married pretty early and they married local boys. Normally someone who was going into the mines and if they were real lucky they might marry someone who was going into the armed services and they got to travel.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Some of them married guys who lived like at Bell Farm or Dobbstown who maybe would work in the logwoods or something like that. And they met at church or they would met them while we were walking to Jewel Kidd's store. Or while we were swimming at the Blue Hole or down at the Junction.

BERGE: Do you remember any dances or anything like that?

CURLS: I remember, I remember pie suppers. There were a lot of pie suppers.

BERGE: Well how old would the girl have to be before she was involved in that?

CURLS: Oh, you could take a pie when you were twelve or thirteen, and.

BERGE: Did you always know who was going to buy them in advance or was that a surprise?

CURLS: Well sometimes you would know in advance and sometimes it was a surprise. You never really, you know, unless you were really heavily involved with a guy you really didn't know.

BERGE: Uh huh. When, ah, it seems like one time when I talked to your mother I got the indication from her that she thought that there were some real advantages living in the town of Co-Operative because by and large she thought the homes in Co-Operative were probably better than the homes in the area that weren't in the camp. Do you think that's true?

CURLS: You mean, ah, home lives ah?

BERGE: No no the buildings themselves. Do you think the houses, say in Co-op were better than the average house in Dobbstown?

CURLS: Oh definitely yes.


CURLS: Yes they were.

BERGE: I guess Dobbstown was the closest town there was it?

CURLS: Uh huh. Yes the houses were much better and of course the people um, who lived in Dobbstown were ah, economically they were on a lower scale than the people who lived in the . . .

BERGE: Did any miners live in Dobbstown?

CURLS: Very few.

BERGE: Um hm. Most of them most of the miners actually lived in the company houses.

CURLS: Right

BERGE: The ah, what were the biggest deals of the year when you lived in Co-Operative. In other words what were the things you really looked forward to socially and every other way?

CURLS: Well we always looked forward to the ah, the ball games in the summer. And summertime especially was good, I mean we went swimming a lot and we watched the ball games and we played ball a lot and of course there was the fourth of July carnival out at Stearns.

BERGE: Uh huh, uh huh. When you went to that did you go by car or train or what?

CURLS: Well we went, by car and train. Of course, it ah, we went by train until the road was built and then we went by car. When we got a car [laughing].

BERGE: Before you had a car, and you, you can remember that pretty well I guess. . .


[Start of side two]

BERGE: I was going to ask you about bef--before you had a car how often you would have or let's say a girl like you would have gotten to get into say Stearns or Whitley City. How often did you go into town? Beside-in addition to the Fourth of July, I guess you went there every, every year on the fourth.

CURLS: Not very often. We would go occasionally on weekends maybe to, to get groceries or get ah, after Mom, er after Dad had a car. Or go to our grandparent's house. And sometimes when my older brothers and sister came in they would take us to a movie or something.

BERGE: Uh huh. Was there any movie in Co-op?

CURLS: My brother established a uh movie that he ah, well it wasn't a theater in itself he would just show the movies at the schoolhouse.

BERGE: Uh huh

CURLS: But they were ah, ah you know . . .

BERGE: Pretty good movies?

CURLS: They were good movies. They were some of the best at that particular time.

BERGE: Do you ah, you remember ever wishing that you could go into town and you weren't able to or did you pretty well content there?

CURLS: I don't remember wishing that I could go into town, I was content. You know, I, I, we were, I think I was happy.

BERGE: When you were, do you remember conversations you had with other girls about your aspirations in life or did you do any much of that?

CURLS: Yes I remember them. I've had, especially in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade there were a couple of other girls and myself who really did well in school. We made really good grades and we really liked school and we all had aspirations of being a teacher.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And. . . .

BERGE: Did that seem about the best thing that a woman could be I guess?

CURLS: Yeah, that seemed about the best, at that, that was really the only job that we had seen a woman do.

BERGE: You're a role model as a teacher in a sense?

CURLS: Right. You know, with the exception of, of our mothers and we, and we all three of us felt like we wanted to do something rather than just be a housewife. So we talked a lot about that and we, I guess we, all in our playt-in, well I know we did, in our playtime prior to adolescence we dressed up pretending like we were movie stars and all these other things but we knew that was beyond our reach.

BERGE: Did you have any heroines, any women you really admired?

CURLS: I think we all admired the women that taught us at school and ah.

BERGE: Were these single women?

CURLS: A lot of them were, a lot of them were single women. And I think ah, but I don't remember having a lot of admiration for, you know, any movie star or anybody like that.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Ah, I read a lot. So I had, I had great, ah, I used to dream about being Jane Eyre, or something like that [laughing] you know. Something really weird and romantic, I guess. [laughing]

BERGE: Um hm. Did you ah, Did you ever talk about getting married and settling down in Co-op or anything like that?

CURLS: No I didn't. They did but I didn't.

BERGE: Alright. . .

CURLS: I guess maybe I had, you know I had brothers and sister that had left and had done something with their lives and had not stayed and I guess I modeled my aspirations pretty much after theirs.

BERGE: Uh huh. You're aspirations weren't in a Stern's company town then?

CURLS: No, they were not.

WV: Okay, let's go on now and forget about Co-op in a way now and get to Blue Heron. Here you are you're a fourteen year old girl living in Blue Heron and going to school in Whitley City. Do you think that your experiences in high school in Whitley City were as good as the experiences of the girls from say Stearns in Whitley City?

CURLS: No. I know they weren't [laughing]

BERGE: Uh huh. Was there a high school in Stearns there?


BERGE: Why didn't you go there?

CURLS: Well.

BERGE: Did everyone from Blue Heron go over to high school?

CURLS: We were considered county.

BERGE: Okay.

CURLS: And these were city, con-the people who went to Stearns. . .

BERGE: Where were the people who went to, who lived in Co-op went to school?

CURLS: They went to Whitley City.

BERGE: They did. They went to county school too.

CURLS: Um hm, right.

BERGE: Was this because the kind of people who lived in Stearns just felt that they were a little bit better than the people that lived in the other company towns?

CURLS: I think that's part of it.

BERGE: Um hm. Did you ever wish you lived in Stearns?

CURLS: A few times, yes.

BERGE: That was sort of the model place wasn't it?

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: That was the place to live. Do you remember the first time you were in the, uh, in the, the coffee shop or whatever it is in Stearns? Do you remember going there, for the first time?

CURLS: Yes, I remember going there with my mother and getting an ice cream cone and I really felt very much out of place.

BERGE: Uh huh. But you still thought it was big time though didn't you?


BERGE: Alright so you, you're down in Blue Heron and you're going to school. When you went to school were you, were there any functions that you weren't able to participate in because you did ride that bus or did they make arrangements for those kind of things?

CURLS: No you didn't attend anything, unless your parents after you got home, which would be 5:30 at night, and your parents would bring you back to a function. Which was practically unheard of as far as my Dad was concerned because he had worked hard all day and really, you know, that was a long trip.

BERGE: Well you've got a responsibility there too if something happened after he was gone and this type of. . .

CURLS: Right. So he would have had to have driven us out and gone somewhere and waited until the activity was over and picked us up and brought us back, so we just didn't go.

BERGE: When you were a freshman, sophomore, junior, whatever did you attend basketball games?


BERGE: Didn't huh. Alright. Now, you told me one time you were pretty young when you married. How old were you when you married?

CURLS: Seventeen.

BERGE: You were still in high school?

CURLS: Uh huh.

BERGE: You were a senior?


BERGE: Alright. What was your mother's reaction to that early marriage?

CURLS: She, ah, agreed with it.

BERGE: She didn't, wasn't upset at all?

CURLS: No. Dad was but she wasn't.

BERGE: Uh huh. How did it come about-the way, ah [laughter - CURLS] Did you really, seems to me that this is, there's an incongruity here because when you were a young girl in Co-Operative you didn't anticipate this kind of thing, did you?

CURLS: No. [pause] I think it was because I, ah, a lot of it was because I was at Blue Heron and I was never, I wouldn't say I was never allowed, I was never given the opportunity to do the things that a girl that age should be doing, you know. . .

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Soc-social wise.

BERGE: Had you ever been to a dance?


BERGE: Never had been to even a dance?

CURLS: A dance, no.

BERGE: Before you were married?


BERGE: Well how did you meet the man and, tell me about that.

CURLS: Okay. He was, ah, teaching for the county school system.

BERGE: Where?

CURLS: In a one room school up on the mountain above Blue Heron. And he rode the bus down in the mornings and would ride it back in the afternoon. And I was getting off the bus he was getting on.

BERGE: And vice versa.

CURLS: Right. And ah, he asked the bus driver who I was and everything and he told him and he called me and ah, he was older, you know like he was out of college, he had a job, and he had a car, you know, it was very impressive.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And so I went out with him. And it just, ah.

BERGE: Like when you said you went out with him, were did you go? Like what kind of-Blue Heron . . .

CURLS: Well we went, well like he took me to ball games occasionally, to movies.

BERGE: Okay. Okay.

CURLS: To his church, which is the big church in Stearns, which was that was, you know, that impressed me. And ah, I guess I was, well I know I don't guess, I know I was totally infatuated.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And he asked me to marry him and I said no and ah, so we discontinued our relationship and then he, ah, kept calling and my mother kept insisting that I go out with him again. Which I did and shortly thereafter we were married. And I didn't want to get married.

BERGE: Why did you get married then?

CURLS: Well I had told my mother that I want-she won't hear any of this will she?


CURLS: I don't want to ever do anything to hurt her, but I had told her that I wanted to go to college, you know. I had good grades and I felt like I could do well and that I wanted to go, ah, to Cumberland. That was

BERGE: That was the college. . .

CURLS: Yeah, that was the college that was the closest and ah, that I, that I would like to give it a try. At least go for one year and see how I did. And she told me that, that Dad would never send me to school because I was a girl. I would just get married and drop out and that would be, that money would be wasted. And that he would send the boys but he would never send me. And I think getting married was an out.

BERGE: So you used it as sort of an escape valve?

CURLS: Yes I did.

BERGE: Instead of joining the army you got married. In a sense.

CURLS: Yeah.

BERGE: Ah, did you have any other friends that did this?

CURLS: Oh, a lot.

BERGE: You think a lot of them married early because-for the same kinds of things. I don't mean specifically but . . .

CURLS: I mean I wasn't trying to get ah, a lot of them got married to get away from their parents. I wasn't particularly trying to get away from my parents as much as I was trying to get away from Blue Heron.

BERGE: Uh huh

CURLS: And have, and I know this sounds probably very childish, but I wanted to have the chance to express myself and do some of the things that I saw depicted on television, for instance. To be a normal, you're not; you were not a normal person living at Blue Heron.

BERGE: And I imagine you found by getting married at seventeen that you really got an opportunity to express yourself didn't you?

CURLS: Oh yes I did. [laughter]

BERGE: And how did you express yourself, you had five children that's how you expressed yourself.


BERGE: Now let me. . .

CURLS: And I was totally totally discontent.

BERGE: More hemmed in that you had been as a young child?

CURLS: More, oh I, I just made a terrible mistake, yes.

BERGE: But, did you ever talk to any other women oh your age or a little younger or older who had the same sort of experience?

CURLS: Um hm. Well one of the other girls that I told you about, that we talked about be-becoming a teacher, I went to her fathers funeral about three years ago and I saw her and she had married a, right out of high school. Right after I did. And had gone to Ohio with this guy who was from her neighborhood and went to work in a factory.

BERGE: Um hm

CURLS: And ah, she, I-you know we talked, we discussed it, and she said she left for the s-I mean she married him for the same reason. Well she was still with him. She was still in the factory and she had not become a teacher. And she was quite . . .

BERGE: Did she ever go to college?

CURLS: No. And she was very capable. She w--

BERGE: Did any of those other girls go to college besides you. . .


BERGE: And of course, you went to college, but you went to college after you had your family didn't you?

CURLS: The only other person in my eight grade class that went to college and became a professional was Jerry Winchester. Who is the commonwealth attorney for Corbin, Whitley County right now.

BERGE: Uh huh. Uh huh.

CURLS: So you know, of the twenty-five people in that class, well there was only about ten of us that went on to high school.

BERGE: Uh huh, and only two of those ten went to college.

CURLS: Right.

BERGE: And you had sort of a around about way.

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: Jan, of those girls, now this would hardly be an accurate statistic or anything, but, of those girls that you knew down in there who married young, did many of them divorce?


BERGE: They didn't?

CURLS: No. Well, one of them married my brother [laughing], you know. She, ah, she and I were in the eight grade together and she works, ah, at the shirt factory down in Stearns. And ah. She's no-divorce is not in her vocabulary.

BERGE: Uh huh. Uh huh.

[Interruption, long silence][Static sound]

BERGE: Probably talking about essentially that she just never knew anything else.

CURLS: No. I mean to her, the way, I think the way that they were reared they were reared up to believe, such as my mother told me, that you-you, you uh when you get old enough which is seventeen or eighteen, no later than eighteen, you get married and you have a husband that takes care of you and you don't work you take care of the house and you cook and you have his kids and that's your responsibility. You don't have to worry about anything else.

BERGE: Uh huh. Uh huh. Are you convinced now in retrospect that you really married to get ou-get away from the...

CURLS: Oh sure I did.

BERGE: town?

CURLS: Because he and I had nothing whatsoever in common, nothing.

BERGE: Uhh huh. You h-did you sense that very early in your marriage?

CURLS: Oh yes. And you probably think well why did you have all those kids?

BERGE: Well, it was because you were married.

CURLS: Well not only that but he was the kind of person, now, I mean I look back on it, he was definitely a male chauvinist. He felt like if he could keep me pregnant and have one child after another I would, I guess supposedly never stray and always be in the little nest and . . .

BERGE: Well you-when did you first even begin to think of the possibility of that your marriage wouldn't last? I mean, I-how does, how does that work in your mind, you probably never even thought about ever being divorced when you were first married?

CURLS: When I had my second child is when I began to realize that I needed to get into some kind of vocation. But I still didn't think about divorce. I guess in my mind I thought about making it work. But I felt like I needed to get some kind of vocation so that financially we would be more stable. So I started, ah, I started going to college when I was pregnant with my second child.

BERGE: You were living in a town where there was a college?

CURLS: No, I went to Williamsburg.

BERGE: From Where?

CURLS: From Stearns.

BERGE: Is that where you lived is Stearns?

CURLS: Uh huh

BERGE: After you married?

CURLS: Yes. So see I, I didn't get very far away but I got to the big town of Stearns [laughing].

BERGE: Well, that was something.

CURLS: Yeah that was something [laughing]

BERGE: When you lived in Co-op in the, and before you thought about being married, did, what was your, how did you pass the time in the summer, what did you do?

CURLS: Well we swam a lot. We went for walks ah. We ah, oh let's see. I'm trying to think. We slide down the slate dumps. And um, the girlfriends that I had we talked about sex, you know we'd get in little huddles and talk about sex, and we played ball and ah, stoled a few kisses here and there and ah.

BERGE: Jan do you remember any smoking or drinking?

CURLS: I remember smoking corn silk. But that's all.

BERGE: Uh huh. Did-was there much drinking in the coal camps?

CURLS: Huh uh, no there wasn't.

BERGE: I'm not talking about children, but. . .

CURLS: I know, I know.

BERGE: . . . but about adults.

CURLS: Well there w-there was a few. Ah, yeah I guess every town has their town drunk.

BERGE: Yeah, yeah.

CURLS: And there was a couple of town drunks, you know, but there really wasn't, there wasn't, you know, drinking.

BERGE: Were there any young couples where the childre-the girls particularly would be would sort of like those women and go to there house to talk with younger adults and the parents or anything?

CURLS: No there really wasn't that much of that.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: Not like it is now for instance.

BERGE: When you were, ah, living there in Co-op, ah, not in Co-op but in Blue Heron, and, ah, say you in tenth grade or something like that did, ah, and you bought clothes, where did you buy your clothes? Like if you if your parents were going to buy you a nice dress where did they get it?

CURLS: Store one, in Stearns.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: They had a charge account there.

BERGE: And you went in there and got it?

CURLS: And my mother went with me, until I got up to a certain age and then I went in on my own. But that didn't happen very often [laughing]

BERGE: Uh huh. What was the biggest deal you remember in your life when you were down there? Before you married and even thought of getting married, what was a, you have any event or anything that you really remember it as being something spectacular like did you go on any long trips or anything like that?

CURLS: No. Mom and Dad went on a long trip. They went to, ah, Washington state and of course left me and my sister in law in charge and I guess that was a big event because we had the responsibility of everything.

BERGE: Uh huh.

CURLS: And then I guess another big event was getting the TV and getting it hooked up and it running and all that, you know, the picture coming in.

BERGE: Did people come and watch your television?

CURLS: Sometimes uh huh. But there was not really any huge events, to speak of.

BERGE: Well do yo-is it safe to say that, ah, that one of the big differences in the two places was just the size. If it was a larger town it would have been better?

CURLS: Well I think the size ah, has a lot to do with it. And I think the type people that lived in Blue Heron compared to the type people that lived in Co-Operative. For instance, the people that lived in Blue Heron were most of them were the average working labor, laborer, with the exception of us. And in Co-Operative the bosses, you know, and their families lived around and had a lot in common with Dad and Mom and I think it-and the bookkeeper lived there, and the doctor lived there, and it wasn't like that in Blue Heron.

BERGE: Uh huh. Do you, ah, would you recall-you've talked with your brothers about Co-Operative and Blue Heron haven't you?

CURLS: Um hm

BERGE: What's the difference in your remembrances of it than in your brother's remembrances of it? [Pause] Wha-do you have any idea about that?

CURLS: Well I think. . .

BERGE: Your brothers remember it more fondly than you, or?

CURLS: Well I think we all remember Co-Operative very fondly, you know, we feel, we, I, I think we all know the advantages and disadvantages that we had. But there is only one brother that grew up in Blue Heron and he has fairly fond memories of it because he went to Revelo Elementary School and. . . .

BERGE: He hunted and fished and.

CURLS: and, and. Yes, and you know he was, he was a lot younger, he was not in adolescence he was not , he made friends at the school and then went on into high school with them. And by the time that he got into high school, uh, he was, uh and as soon as he got sixteen he got a car, you know, he was, he was a boy [laughing]

BERGE: Um hm. Did you ever drive a car before you married?

CURLS: Nope.

BERGE: Did you ever think about it?

CURLS: Oh yes, I thought about it.

BERGE: What-- did you ask?

CURLS: Um hm.

BERGE: What did they say?

CURLS: No [laughing].

BERGE: If God meant for girls to have cars she would have been born with wheels huh? [Laughing]

CURLS: [laughing] Um hm, I guess.

BERGE: What was ah. . .

CURLS: Of course you know Dad feels differently about a lot of things now.

BERGE: Oh sure, sure, I understand that.

CURLS: But then, you know, and I di-I can see how he, why he felt the way he did. And I don't feel, ah, I, I, I'm not cynical toward them about it.

BERGE: Um Hm. You don't feel abused or anything like that?

CURLS: No I don't.

BERGE: Um hm.

CURLS: I don't feel abused at all.

BERGE: Well he ah, he was very typical than, would you say?

CURLS: Oh, well I think he was, ah . . . .

BERGE: More strict than most?

CURLS: W-no, I think he was, he was about, he was typical as far as strictness. But I think he was, ah, he was more loving and more wanting, ah, ah to provide the best that he could for his family. I mean, he was, he was ambitious in that way. I don't think he was I think it was typical in some aspects, in some aspects he wasn't.

BERGE: What did you, ah, what did you do for things like, oh, magazines and newspapers? Did you get a newspaper?

[Phone rings, tape interrupted]

BERGE: Jan I want to thank you for, ah, letting me come by here. After I listen to this and listen to some of the others, if there's just two or three, and there won't be anymore than just two or three specific questions I might want to ask you I might stop in for a minute some day and. . .

CURLS: Okay, any time.

BERGE: . . . and ask them. Thank you very much.

CURLS: Uh huh.