“You had the power all along, my dear.” ~ Glenda, the good witch
In the early 1990’s I recorded interviews with all four of my grandparents, asking them to describe their growing up, genealogy, and other stories. I’ve been listening to my grandmother Terry’s recollections. She was born in 1916 and raised hardly a mile from this very spot in Cannel City. The city was still thriving when she was born, digging coal from the deep mines and shipping it out by railcar. The family farm was at the head of Railroad Fork, so named for the track that ran beside the creek before tunneling through the mountain headed to Jackson. The railroad stopped its route in 1931, when Mamaw was sixteen, but her life wasn’t necessarily centered around the decline of the town and its quickly dwindling industry. Instead, she spent her time helping on the farm. Nevertheless, she married a coal miner from Hazard and spent her earliest married years raising her children in various coal camps around Kentucky. She eventually came back to Cannel City to raise what would ultimately be fourteen children, as my grandfather traveled to and from Cannel City to work in the mines throughout Eastern Kentucky. Few people living today have an understanding of what this kind of life is like; raising children in a coal camp, traveling great distances to work, being away from the family weeks at a time, digging coal a mile under a mountain, and so on. I admire the way they survived to raise good people. Their sacrifices and tenacious attitudes are part of the family’s gene structure now. What’s not to appreciate about that?