I want to start off by saying that I could not interview anyone in my family; my grandparents have been deceased for years on both sides. I will be talking about what I remember as a child. My grandmother on my dad’s side passed away in 1981; my grandfather on my mother’s side passed away in 1980. I was born in 1976, so I would have been 4, going on 5 years old. My grandmother on my mom’s side passed away in 1995 and my grandfather on my dad’s side passed away in 1993. I was not close to my grandfather, or any family members, on my dad’s side; I only have a bits and pieces of information about them.
My grandfather on my mother’s side grew up in southern Kentucky; the only dad she knew. Her real father’s last name was Daniels; however, she claimed Dewey Smith as her father because he took care of her. Dewey Smith, my grandfather, was born in southern Kentucky and was a coal miner. He was approximately 20 years older than my grandmother, Arlena. My grandmother on my dad’s side died of cancer in 1981. She was a traditional homemaker. She was one who had the dinner on the table, cleaned the house and never questioned what grandpa said or did. It is sad, but that is all I remember about her.
My grandfather, James (Arlena’s husband) was thought to be mean man. I remember my dad telling me that he worked at the old Detroit Steel mill in New Boston, Ohio; it was a pretty good income – steady, hard work with a decent pay. Arlena had cancer, which they caught early on, before it got big to operate. It was the size of a golf ball and were going to remove, but James would not let them. Arlena never spoke out about it and had the operation anyways; she lived six months after the doctor’s found the cancer. My grandmother, Pauline, on my mother’s side, however, was more independent from her husband.
She did not take crap from anyone, she was feisty and she would let you know what she thought of you. I remember as a child, she would tell us about growing up in the Great Depression. She would talk about how hard it was during this time. She also talked about growing up without a lot of food. She used to make the best brown beans and cornbread which she learned how to make because during the Great Depression, it is all they had to eat. She talked about eating them at least twice a day for months.
She was a homemaker most of the time and she had only one job (outside of the house and farm) working in the laundry at St. Mary’s Hospital in West Virginia. She would milk the cows and raise a garden every year. She had been raised in West Virginia and then she moved to South Webster, Ohio, in her twenties. My dad, Clifford, is a good dad. He was really is my role model and taught me good values, such as self-sufficiency, hard work and taking care of the family. My dad had ten brothers and one sister. His dad was not very nice to him; he would beat on my dad regularly. When I was little, my dad would tell me stories about him – kicking him with boots on.
My grandfather, James, made my dad milk cows before he would go to school; if he did not get done milking the cows, dad was not allowed to go. There was not a play time for dad when he was a kid. My dad was placed in learning disability classes because grandpa would keep him out of school so much. However, my dad finally graduated high school and went to work on a vegetable farm in Wheelersburg, Ohio. In 1974, he then went to work for the railroad. After 11 years he had to retire because of a health condition. My dad always worked really hard; I can remember him going to work with his eyes swelled shut from being sick.
He also raised me to take care of family. He taught me to respect female and my elders. My mom, Christine, was also raised on a farm, with a garden and cattle. My mom had 4 brothers and 3 sisters. My mom had also been taught to have a strong work ethic, but her parents were not as strict as what my dad went through. My mom volunteered to drop out of high school for a year, because her family was struggling to make ends meet; she went to work at a shoe factory at eighteen-years-old. She went back to school and finally finished high school. She and my dad got married in 1970 and had their first child, Millard in 1972.
In 1974, they had my brother Jamie. I was born in 1976. Early in my life, my parents and grandparents made me go to church and taught us to have a deep faith in God. Our religious denomination was Southern Baptist, but I would consider myself non-denominational at this point in my life. I remember my grandmother, Pauline, getting kicked out of a church for shouting; she loved going to southern gospel singing. She loved Jesus Christ and taught me that being involved in the church and loving people just like Jesus Christ loved us, was the right thing to do.
Through my upbringing, I had been raised up to only accept Christianity as the only correct religion. On my mother’s side of the family, they expressed the importance of education more than my dad’s side of the family. When my mom volunteered to drop out of high school, her mother stressed going back to school and getting an education. My dad’s side did not stress going to school, focusing more on labor and hard work. As a matter of fact, my dad’s dad quit in the eighth grade; it did not have that much effect on him. My mom’s mother only went to one day of school.
She realized what a disadvantage that was to her in life, so she did not want to see her children struggle like she did, so she continually encouraged her children to go. The article “The Understanding and Facilitating Career Development of People of Appalachian Culture: An Integrated Approach,” discussed how most Appalachians identified as Christians (Mei & Russ, 2007). I really can relate because my family raised me in a Christian church, and, for a long time, I thought that Christianity was the only religion in the world.
It was not until I went to college that I obtained an education on other philosophies, beliefs and religions, like Islam and Buddhism. I took a polytheism and monotheism class to learn about other religions. The article also talks about Appalachians being secluded from the mainstream culture. When I was younger the only friends were my cousins, because I did not go to many places to meet anyone new. Table 1, on pg. 37, Mei and Russ (2007) identify that a significant number people of Appalachian culture follow after the footsteps of their relatives when it comes to education and employment.
For example, my grandfather worked at the old Detroit Steel Mill in New Boston, Ohio and my dad worked on the railroad – two hard, physically demanding, factory jobs. Dad worked on the rails, putting them together; he ended up working with steel, like his dad. In the article “A Regional Culture Model of Academic Achievement: Comparing Appalachian and Non-Appalachian Students in Kentucky,” Gore and Wilburn (2010) assert that “only 12. 3% of the adult population have a college degree. ” I have two brothers, fifteen to twenty cousins and an unquantifiable number of cousins – only 3 or 4 of us have college degrees.