A Conversation with Charles “Buck” Maggard
Articles,  Blog

A Conversation with Charles “Buck” Maggard


Interviewer – Why don’t you talk about where
you were born and something about your family, grandparents – do you remember them? Buck – OK. Well, I was born near where we’re sitting
here, about 15 miles north of here on the north fork of the Kentucky River at a little
place called Cornettsville, Kentucky and that was in 1940. I was born in an old lumber camp, right near
the north fork of the Kentucky river and of course, I don’t remember those years. When I was 3 year old, my father moved over
to Montgomery Creek which is in Vicco, Kentucky to where I’m now living. We’re probably within a mile of where I grew
up on the river where my father moved to in 1940, and I’ve been there with the exception
of I’ve been in the Army and probably in Indiana, Ohio for six or seven months at the time. I’ve lived in Breathitt County probably about
seven or eight years. I’ve been here all my life practically right
here where I grew up. My father was a – during the depression years
he worked on the L and N Railroad and but before that has a very young boy really, he
come over from Leslie County, Kentucky over on the ( ). He come over into Perry county
and worked at a saw mill, W and Ritter saw mill which is a big operation on Leatherwood
Creek in Perry County here. That’s where Cornettsville’s at and I think
he started working there when he was about 11 year old. My mother was born just down the river from
Leatherwood Creek on a Creek called Mason’s Creek, and I think they – when he died in
1986 they’d been married 62 years. Dad worked in the mines up until he retired
in – it was either – 1959 or 60. And during that time he had been crushed up
twice with roof falls and long about l954 – 56 he had to have one of his lungs taken
out because it was – because of black lung and rock dust. So he held on for a couple more years after
that, worked up until he was about 60. Interviewer – Worked there until he had lung
cancer? Buck – He worked with just one lung and then
after he retired he moved to ( ) County Kentucky and by that time I was married. He lived until he was almost 85 with one lung
and stayed active up until about a year before he died. He had a small farm there in Breathitt County. He farmed the rest of his days. That’s what he really loved doing anyway. Growing up on Montgomery Creek, it was, we
did live for a while because Dad had to walk to work, there were no roads in and out of
Montgomery Creek at that time, so Dad had to walk about 4 mile to work from where, in
the morning. So basically we did wander further down on
Montgomery Creek to an old coal camp where we lived for about 8 years, ’til sometime
in the 40s to about ’52. Then we moved back up near the head of the
creek after the roads and things come in and where I now live. Interviewer – Do you know your grandparents? Buck – I never met my grandparents on my mother’s
side. They passed away years and years ago when
I was real small. My grandfather on my Dad’s side, my great
grandfather rather, was originally out of North Carolina. Down near the North Carolina coast, and they
migrated from North Carolina up through the Shenandoah Valley and a lot of the migrants
stayed in ( ) County is where I found most of them settled at, during those years. Still lots of them there. And then the rest of them migrated on into
Kentucky and some come over on the Cumberland River which is here in ( ) County. And some migrated on down into Leslie County
and that’s where my grandfather was born was in Leslie County, Kentucky over in the ( ) area. He worked in the log woods all his life. That’s all he ever did. He was a huge man. He never could find pants to fit him. He was so big he couldn’t afford tailor-made
clothes. and he had huge hands. I’ve never seen nobody with hands as huge
as my grandfather. He was the one that took my father into the
log woods when my father was 11 years old was to helping him with a team of oxen. My grandmother was also born in Leslie County
on my Dad’s side. Her background was also, her father was a
mountain farmers, loggers, and that’s about all that was going on back in those days until
the mining come into the area. And probably Dad was the first generation
of migrants of this particular generation, anyway, to ever work in the mines. Up until that time, they were farmers and
worked the logs. Interviewer – Why did he go in the mines? Buck – Well, after he left W. Ritter company,
he went to the L and N Railroad. I think the wages during that time were about
$2 and a quarter a day. We’re talking like $29 – $20 during those
years. He figured that he could make a quarter or
fifty cents more a day by leaving the railroad and coming to the mines, and I think he started
in the mines at two and a quarter or two fifty a day. bur during that period of time for the family
that seemed like a five dollar raise and that was the reason he went into the mines. And then he had the skills he had learned
on the railroad, some skills that he used in the mine also. At that time it was all pulled out by electric
motors and he got familiar with track and motors and electricity and all that kind of
stuff, so that’s the reason he went into the mines. Interviewer – So that’s the kind of job he
had – laying track. Buck – Right. He laid track. He could do anything within the mines. And he got into the union, the UMW at the
very beginning of that also. When he come to the mines the UMW was just
starting up, so he got involved with the UMW at a real early age. In fact he’d already been involved with the
railway unions before that. So other than working at the saw mill, they
were union jobs that he worked. He was fortunate, not like some – he’s always
had that union protection, always did have it. Right up until he died. Interviewer – Did he talk about that much
with you? Buck – You growed up with it. At one time in this earlier year, every mine
here was unionized up until the middle fifties. Sot you just grew up – union, union – heard
it every day, every night. The neighbors talking about it. You went to union meetings with your parents
and you got that feel of solidarity at a really young age. I won’t say that about the generation after
me. All the unions have gone, left out and everything
and I’m sure people don’t get that feeling now of solidarity that they did when I was
growing up here. I was a teenager in the fifties, so I become
pretty well aware of unionism at a real early age. Interviewer – What do you remember about those
early conversations in the home…? Buck – There was always some issue coming up. Dad would always talk about, you know, better
working conditions. Somebody had got screwed over at the mines
that day or something or other like that. You know, the neighbors would talk about it
among themselves and then they’d have a meeting at the local union hall to discuss how they
could deal with the company on this particular issue. Just all kinds of things you hear. There was always safety issues. Wasn’t as much wages as you might think it
was. Course that did play a very important part. The union did bring better wages. My Dad was making $13 a day in the fifties
in the union mines. That was not a lot of money but a lot more
than most other people were making. And so that was the kind of things they were
talking about. And they were always on lay-offs, you know
they was talking about seniority rights and all this kind of stuff. So you learned about it at a real early age
if you’re in an old coal camp, especially if it was unionized. Interviewer – Were women part of those conversations? Buck – Unfortunately, not. They were not. The husband rarely discussed any issue around
the workplace. Of course my mother had to catch some of it
because she was always there. But it was really mostly the men who did most
of the talking about it. The women were, you know, its not like it
is today. I’ll put it that way. They had their own little world too. That’s for sure. Raising kids, helping make the garden, you
know, that kind of stuff. They were more the supervisors of the household. Men did not supervise the household too much
he was always working. Interviewer – Did your mother work outside
the house? Buck – My mother only like at a boarding house
or something like that where she worked as a cook. But it was not very much. I come from a family of 14 so you can figure… Interviewer – You had 13 sisters and brothers? Buck – Right. So I was about the 7th or 8th one in the family
of 14. She raised 10 of ’em. You can figure about what her duties were. Interviewer – Full time job. Buck – Full time job. Laughter. Interviewer – I’m still curious about these
conversations when you were younger. Did you get a sense that in the midst of this
there was a sense that you could do something…? Buck – That was at a very young age and where
I become aware of a lot of stuff was in the local schools. The local schools had been set up and really
maintained and run by the coal operators. Big coal operators I’m talking about are big
companies out of Philadelphia and New York or wherever they come from. They owned most of the land we lived on. They owned the houses we lived in. They controlled – they had a company store,
so they – we were just captives within this area. They also influenced the schools, and I guess
I become aware that where I go to school the textbooks were written by somebody – god knows,
I don’t know where – and the textbooks evolved around the lives of upper and upper middle
class people in the United States. And those textbooks, reading them stories,
nothing didn’t jive with my surroundings or my area. I was very confused about all this. I didn’t see a chapter in there about John
L. Lewis or Big Bill Haywood or Eugene Debbs, all those people. There was something wrong, there was something
wrong with the way I was being taught. They were trying to make me into something
that I would never be, probably didn’t ever want to be. I would walk home every night, and I walked
the railroad track, and you know. But in these stories, the mothers come and
picked the kids up in station wagons from the schools. And they had white picket fences and they
had pedigreed dogs. You know, all the houses were white and there
I was living in a drab gray house in Perry County, Kentucky in a coal camp. I didn’t learn nothing. Everything I learned was something, you know,
I’d never heard about, wasn’t aware of. It was good to learn about things, you learned
something – you learned how to read and write. That confused me all the way through school
even when I got into high school. It was the same thing. Course you had the math and the English and
the history. If you’d read the history of Kentucky you’d
think Daniel Boone settled every bit of it. He come here and he built every town, he built
every house. He surveyed every river, he built the railroad
track. He done everything. Nobody did anything in Kentucky but Daniel
Boone. Henry Clay made a lot of noise. He talked a lot but Daniel Boone done all
the work. So you wonder about these things. What in the world is going on here. Oh, its great Daniel Boone come through the
Cumberland Gap and took an ax and chopped a road out through it. But, my god, there was other things happening
in Kentucky. What the hell – who really built Kentucky? You wonder about these things. They never tell you ’bout nothing. And you know they teach you about democracy
and Thomas Jefferson. They never mention the fact – George Washington
– they never mention these guys were the biggest slave owners in the whole United States at
that time. So we didn’t learn those things in school. We never learned about – you don’t really
learn a lot about nothing. And you learned nothing about yourself. So you go through all this period of your
life – you got people up here trying to brainwash you and you’re trying to figure out what’s
going on, you know. You just get screwed up something awful. When I become aware of what was really happening,
you know, I set out to seek information on myself. I become an avid reader in labor history. I read all the classics. I went and found out about that kind of stuff
also. We touched on a lot of this stuff except the
labor and all the local history in the schools, but to get it more in depth, you just have
to go off and do it on your own, I figured. So I really wouldn’t say that the education
I got, I got it just by wanting to know something, and just wanting to do something different
and wanting to find out about myself, about my background, who I am. I didn’t give a damn about who George Washington
was. I didn’t give a shit who Thomas Jefferson
was. I wanted to know who my family was and I wanted
to learn about my community. So all that stuff I really had to learn on
my own. Interviewer – ( ) Buck – I first become aware,
I guess – see I didn’t get started in the school until I was about 8 year old. I had a physical problem. I’d start in and I’d get real ill and I’d
have to quit. My mother taught me how to read. My mother was actually the one taught me how
to read. She had some old books that – I forget what
they were – that she’d had when she was going to school. She was the educated one in the family, by
the way. My mother actually graduated from high school. My Dad never went really beyond the 4th grade. So she taught most of us how to read, the
whole family how to read. In fact, even before we started to school,
the little old books and the Bible and this and that. When I first become aware that things weren’t
right which was probably about the 5th or 6th grade when it begin to dawn on me – hell,
this is not the life I live, this is not my history. Interviewer – How did that affect your relationships
with the school. did you become a problem child? Buck – No. In fact, I was an honor student. You wouldn’t believe e it, but I was an honor
student all through school. But it was so easy to be an honor student. All you had to do was rewrite what you’d read
out of that book. That was always good to take the test. I wouldn’t say I didn’t learn anything, but
you know, I didn’t learn the things I really wanted to learn in that setting. Interviewer – Would you tell us what life
in a coal camp in those days was like and what in terms of community activities, music
and church and stuff like that. Buck – There was always music. I’ve always interested in it. That’s why I’m so interested today in preserving
traditional music. It was always there. There was someone in every community that
played the banjo or the fiddle or the guitar or the autoharp or something. And a lot of evenings were spent around the
front of the old company stores and places like that or a wide place beside the railroad
track listening to people play music. Old people would tell stories about growing
up, you know, how it was before the coal companies come in and all that kind of stuff – was always
plenty interesting. That’s where I really learned about the history
of the area is from those people. Church – we had a Methodist church which the
coal companies paid the preacher. But none of us ever went to that one. The only people that went to that one were
the bosses and their families. We had our own church there in the camp, sort
of a Pentecostal where all the neighbors would gather up at somebody’s house on a Saturday
night, and you’d have singing and music and ‘course preaching and testifying and all that. It was more like a rock and roll party (laughter)
Everybody would get in there on Saturday night. Some of the men would be a little tanked up
before they come. The women would all dress up in their finest
clothes they had, and they’d kind of pick us kids up and take us all to this particular
house where the church was being held at that night. And have a really good time. Music and there would be a lot of shouting
and a lot of getting into the spirits, ‘course a lot of them were in the spirits before they
got there. (laughter) So it wasn’t very hard to do. but it was really – this is how people I guess
– looking back on it was how they sort of got rid of the frustrations that had built
up during their life in the week and this was the one time a week that they could go
and be with their neighbors and sort of a spiritual thing, of course, and sort of get
rid of that frustration. I guess that’s why most people of that camp
followed the Pentecostal faith. course that changed later on. People got into the Free Will Baptist and
all that kind of thing. But that was probably the dominant religion
in that particular camp I grew up with the Pentecostal. They called it the Holiness. They probably did build the church house which
is still there today. Interviewer – You said there were bosses in
the camp and different kinds of people even though yoou had union there that was strong
in protecting people from certain things. Do you have a sense of “them” and “us”? Buck – It was very obvious. The camp was split – you lived in three camps. We lived where the working men lived, and
then you had this other section where the bosses houses were much finer. Most of them had indoor plumbing. Then father up the creek right up to where
you couldn’t get no further unless you went across the mountain, you had the blacks. They were way back from everybody. They had separate schools. their school was located about 200 yards from
the white school, but we never associated with those kids during school. We did socialize on the weekend. A lot of the black people would come down
into the camp to go to church and visit with the working miners. And they worked in the bosses houses. Interviewer – They come to church so the Holiness
meetings were black and white? Buck – They would be integrated, even though
the schools wasn’t. I never went to school with a black kid until
sometime about ’56 or ’57. Interviewer – So they worked in the mines? Buck – They worked in the mines also. But they lived – we were all segregated. Interviewer – So you had a sense of the division
in the community? Buck – It was certainly there, but it didn’t
exist at the two lower rungs of the ladder. They had a lot in common. The ones that didn’t want anything to do – keeping
us apart lived between us. They were always there, you know. So we did have that sense of division, it
was certainly there. But in terms of race, I won’t say that racism
didn’t exist among all the people there but it certainly was not as obvious that it probably
would be in the deep South at that time or even later. We got along well together. And then you had a mixture, you had Italians
that would live in the camp, you had Polish and Hungarians, from all backgrounds that
come into the mountains to work in the mines. It was amazing how well that they blended
in with the ordinary working man. Course coming from the background that they
did was probably the reason. Interviewer – What when you decided to go
into the Army ’bout 17 or so? Buck – I was 17. That was the year my Daddy got sick. He was laid up for six months. That was the year he had his lung taken out. And at that time I was the oldest one at home. I had one older brother at that time and there
was just a whole bunch of girls in between us. some of them had married off and the oldest
brother had already working in the mines and married and had a family. I was the oldest one at home and I didn’t
want to go into mines at that particular time. So I went to the Army. That’s a whole different experience. But that was the first time I’d ever traveled
any was really out of the mountains for any length of time. Looking back, I don’t regret going to the
Army. I wasn’t overjoyed after I got there, but
I don’t regret going because it did give me a look at the other part of the world that
at that time I hadn’t seen. Interviewer – You saw it as a way of supporting
yourself? Buck – At that time, I got $62 a month, $62 – $64 a month. Well you could send – if you sent $30 home
to your parents, they would match it. More in terms of economics than it was that
I was going to be a Sergeant York. Interviewer – Was that common among your friends? Buck – Very common. If you’ll look back at the history of the
mountains especially in this area during World War II they filled their quotas with volunteers,
and some counties didn’t even have to use the draft. A lot of it might have been a sense of patriotism. A lot of it just had to do with the economics
of the thing also. Course a lot of them didn’t come back. But anyway it was a chance to get away. It was a chance to help the family. I dropped out of school and I was a junior
in high school. I adanced real fast through the grades. Interviewer – Going back a little bit. Was there much of a legacy of the New Deal,
the kinds of things that happened during Roosevelt’s administration? If you remember – Buck – Yes, it was very
obvious in the area where I grew up at, my Dad never worked in the WPA. He was fortunate he had a job during that
period. He was one of the lucky ones. My Dad always said that Herbert Hoover made
a democrat out of him, because he was raised a really conservative Republican up until
the depression years. And even though my grandfather never did switch
over, his ideals about things changed, you know, after the depression years when everybody
had it so hard. Even though my Dad had a job it still wasn’t
easy. You know, you always hear the stories abut
the WPA. If you look around Whitesburg you see all
this mason work and the old bridges and stuff. A lot of that was made by Italian people. They were great rock cutters. A lot of the old school buildings what’s left
standing, were made during the WPA years. A lot of the roads were built during those
years. So you hear a lot of talk about that. All kinds of stories about working for the
WPA – it was very obvious. Franklin Roosevelt was their hero. They had two heroes. Neither one of them was George Washington
or Daniel Boone. It was Franklin Roosevelt and John L. Lewis. That was the talk. So you learned about that real fast. Interviewer – So the legacy of those years
and the kinds of changes they’d made in the mountains, were obvious to you growing up? Buck – Very obvious growing up. Even to the place that the road – where I
live at now there was not a road in there until round 55. Interviewer – How did you get in – did you
walk a path? bridge? Buck – You could get up the creek in the summertime
in a big truck. In a truck, not a car, a big truck. And I’m talking about a 2 ton truck. That was it. It was walk paths and sled walks, even in
the 50s. So we’re talking about really remote country
even during that period when the rest of the world was much further progressed than we
was. In fact, we didn’t have electricity until
we moved into that coal camp. That was all deducted from the miner’s pay,
the rent, the electricity, so much a month for the doctor who was always a quack. All that was deducted from your paycheck before
you – Interviewer – Did you have to trade at the company store? Buck – You didn’t have to, but the problem
with that was, you didn’t have any way of getting out and going anywhere else. Very few people owned cars, very few. So you were sort of a captive to it. Most people did trade at the country store,
and most people always were overdrafted when they got to payday. They always owed the company. They always managed to owe the company. Interviewer – Did a lot of people have that
same sort of feeling about these company doctors that they were sort of quacks that they were
being taken for a ride? Buck – Yeah. They did. Like you’d have probably one company that
would be taking care of like two or three coal camps. One coal camp was not the only way you made
a living. and they just become dispensers of pills is ’bout what they did. I remember that they had some – a little pink
pill that no matter what you went to him for, you always got a little package of those pills. Hell, I don’t know what they take ’em for,
you know. I don’t know whether they worked or not. They had one hospital in the area that was
in Hazard, Kentucky, which was the county seat. It was run by a bunch of Catholics, Catholic
nuns run it, sisters. Called the Old Mountain Mary Hospital. The kids that weren’t born at home, mother
had problems, that’s where they used to went to have a baby. And that was it in terms of medical care. With the company doctor and that one hospital. Few doctors in Hazard at that time. Interviewer – Was the hospital perceived in
the same way? Buck – I would say that the facilities that
they had at that time was adequate. Adequate care, anyway. And they were a bright caring bunch of people,
those Catholic nuns were. Later on we had the big hospital the UMWA
hospitals come in. Miners were the ones who financed that through
assessments and everything from the union, and they built that. So medical care got better. It never did get up where it ought to be,
but it got better. A lot better. You had the medical card too, so you – the
UMWA medical card. Interviewer – You said the Army was a different
experience. I’m just curious what was that like. And what kind of impact that had on you? Buck – Well, the Army – you trained for one
thing. The only thing you’re trained for is to kill
people. That’s it. That’s the reason they have an Army. You trained people to kill other people. I never did have any desire to kill anybody. I know I get mad sometime and want to choke
somebody a little bit, but never had any desire to shoot somebody. So that’s another thing you learned about
the United States. We spend big money every year, even during
those years, that was at the very beginning of the nuclear age and all that to train people
how to kill other people. Its a big business. Tanks, airplanes, and it didn’t sit too well
with my philosophy, you know, I know you hear about all the violence that took place here
in the mountains during early years there was feuds among families but all in all they
were very peaceful people. As long as people left us alone, we didn’t
like to be bothered. If you just leave us to ourselves, we’re very
peaceful people. Course somebody’s going to fly off sometime
and shoot somebody, or knock ’em in the head with a club but that happens everywhere. Course we got – we were known for being very
feudish – a stereotype, you know, laying up on the hill with an old a rifle waiting for
somebody would walk out of the house and shoot ’em. That’s never been true. There has been incidents like that. I’ll say that. Overall we’re a very peace loving people. We don’t really like killing other people. Interviewer – Where did you go in the Army? Buck – I was at Fort Knox in Kentucky and
(wood??) in Missouri. Taught people how to kill people. That’s what I did after I got out of basic
training. That was my duty after eight months – they
learned me how to kill people, I was assigned to gather recruits when they come in. That’s what I did. Interviewer – What did you do when you got
out? Say you studied for a couple of – Buck – I
got out sometime in ’59. I got married in ’59 also. So that was two good things happened to me. I got out of the Army that year and I got
married. And I went to work. The first time I was ever on the picket lines
and al that was in ’59 after I had come back out of the Army. I went to work strip mining at that time. It had just started, it was the very beginning
of it. They had- first they brought in these huge
augers that would just sort of open up the side of the mountain and brought the coal
out and go into a truck. So I got a job on a auger, working on a auger,
and I worked there about, oh, not over three or four months. Course I joined the UMWA at that time. I worked there about three months and they
decided we had this bloody strike, really horrible strike. It was – what was happening, the Union was
really losing ground fast in eastern Kentucky. The big coal companies by that time had sort
of moved out and what you had left was a bunch of what we called dog holes. What they done, they just pulled out so we
quit. Leased it out to other people so much a ton,
money all went to the same people, you know, the same trail and train hauled it out. And this was a way of breaking the union,
I guess. So it held on for a few years after that. Was pretty strong up until about ’59 and they
was getting worried because they were losing membership. So they started to organize, in ’58, reorganize
all these dog holes operations in eastern Kentucky. It lasted about a year. Its probably one of the most bloody strikes
since the ’30s. Finally the National Guard had to come in. It really got – people shot. There was one of my buddies killed about a
mile from where I live. Shot in the back by a coal operator and the
state police took the blame for that. When I was 19 I was on the picket line at
( ), that’s on Montgomery Creek. Where it comes out, there’s a little town
they called Pigot(?) which is the post office. So I was in the picket line when I was 19
years old. I just come out of the armed forces like maybe
three or four months. There I was – they was on one side of the
railroad track and I was on the other. Striking miner (laughter) really didn’t make
sense to me, you know. That’s where I first got involved in- really
got involved in doing anything in terms of community organizing and all that was that
one experience there in 1959 with the strike. Very young and very naive about what was going
on. Interviewer – What did you do, what kind of
activities, what things did you get involved in with the union? Buck – In that particular
strike, I was just on the picket line, like everybody else. Then we were shot at from the mountains, by
thugs I guess it was. Lot of ’em were arrested by the FBI for blocking
interstate commerce. All kinds of things like that happened. Lot of them were just framed up. My brother-in-law spent six months in the
Federal pen. My wife’s brother. They say blocking the railroad track and whether
he did or not is beside the point. He spent the time for it just the same. There were houses blown up. there were railroad bridges blown up, temples
burned. Just all sorts of things went on during that
period. That was probably the last big drive the union
made. The drive itself was a complete failure. The union completely failed. But by that time automation was taking over,
and even though they were – less men would be working more coal would be produced because
of automation. And the union at that time had become more
interested in the tonnage and the royalties than in people. Interviewer – This happened about the time
John L. Lewis died? Buck – He was still president of the union
at that time. He died sometime in the 60s. And then we went through – Tony I think took
over sometime in 63 or 64, somewhere along in there. And then it all went downhill. Interviewer – When you started to lose a kind
of faith in the union even with thisBuck- Well, you know what it was, people still held
on, and they dreamed that the union was going to come back strong. And this existed up until about late 1962. All of a sudden they started getting these
memos from the health and retirement fund that they would revoke – all their health
cards were going to be revoked. All of ’em. Just across the board, you know. Everybody’s health card was going to be revoked.
and then you got into a period where you had a really civil war, a sort of revolution , took
place until about ’64 and it was called a ( ) picket movement where just hundreds of
people would gather up every morning and go to a particular coal mine and shut it down
for that day and then move on somewhere else. This got really violent also. That was also a time we had the National Guard
back in again. Interviewer – Talk about that just a little
bit more. I’m interested in how things moved from the
spirit of organized structured resistance to the union. The traditional channels to this – Buck – Right. What was happening during the 50s we had a
coal boom until, while the war was going on, World War II. John L., you know, he pulled the miners out
several times. One time right during the war when he said
they couldn’t do it. So he went ahead and pulled ’em out anyway. They needed the coal real bad, so they were
ready to bargain with the union, even the coal operators were. And that started changing figures. The one thing, America itself began to change. The industrial world began to change. We were moving away from – even the railroads
itself was moving away from using coal to run the engines because they was converting
over to diesel. A lot of the big manufacturing companies who
were converting over to natural gas and oil and that kind of stuff. The demand for coal was just down. And then you had, you know, a sort of going
through a recession, changing back over from a war economy, back to, you know, and all
that. So there was not a real demand for coal during
the early 50s. And then the big companies who were going
to survive, had sunk millions of dollars into all the new mining technology to get more
coal for less men. The union went along with this. In fact the union, itself opened up the biggest
banks in the United States, but not one dime of that money was ever put into training miners
to do something, equip them for other jobs or helping other industries come there. They just sort of forgot about these people
was going to be laid-off. They just forgot about them. And they really done nothing to help ’em. Even John L. didn’t. This continued all during the 50s. We had a really great depression here during
the Eisenhower administration, almost as bad as Hoover days, here in the mountains. So this went on for about 10 years. The union was gradually losing ground, but
wasn’t really doing a lot to help it. They were just sort of going along with the
bigger coal companies, produce more coal, give us more royalties, we’ll just sort of
let this thing drag on. We’re not going to do nothing about it. I think even though, I say that was a bloody
strike in 50, it was really a token effort on the part of the union to really get these
men back in the mines, you know, to get them back to work. A very token effort. They should have started 10 years earlier
than they did. And this was all building up here in the mountains. The 59 strike being a complete failure. Then you had two years of no union activity
and very few union mines left in the area at that time, and then they revoked their
health card. Something that you had had since 1946, something
or other like that. All of a sudden you’re left without not only
a job, you don’t have any health benefits. All the stuff you’ve worked for, had worked
for, is all of a sudden gone. You had nothing, absolutely nothing left,
all those years. And that started happening in 1962 they started
revoking the cards and that’s when all the miners started organizing the masses. It wasn’t even safe to be outside your house. It sure wasn’t safe to be neutral. You had to be on one side or the other. So we opted for the Union side. I was very much – as a young man much involved
in that movement, and I was on the youth committee of it- of the ( ) picket movement. This went on up until around 1964. It was really hard, and then Kennedy was elected
president. And just up to before he was killed he had
got some legislation through congress, you know, the OEO was being created, and some
money was supposedly going to be sent to eastern Kentucky. Then he was assassinated in 63, I believe
it was. Well, just after the assassination of Kennedy
a bunch of miners organized and got a bus and went to Washington and picketed the United
Mine Workers and the White House. And by this time Lyndon Johnson was president,
and he promised if they come up there he would listen to them. But when they got up there, he wouldn’t talk
to them. John L. Lewis, I mean the union wouldn’t even
let ’em park in the parking lot. A lot of people from the teamster’s union
was very sympathetic at that time. You know, Jimmy Hoffa, at that time was president
of the teamsters. He had sort of become a hero of these rolling
pickets- because he was the one union that got them into the offices that found them
places to stay while they were up there. And they finally did get in to talk to, I
think it was, George Reedy who was some kind of a aid. He agreed to talk to these miners while they
were up there. And he promised them if they would come home,
get organized, really get organized formally they could get X number of dollars for job
training programs, stuff like that. So this was the very beginning of the war
on poverty in eastern Kentucky as I know it. As a result of those miners going up there,
a million dollars was sent to eastern Kentucky for our jobs training program. But that jobs training program was controlled
by the same people that these people were fighting – the local courthouse gangs, the
local chamber of commerce, and all that. So from the very beginning they got control
of that money, and it was them that determined who would be on those programs and who wasn’t,
so it didn’t really – well it did help in terms of this money, and some people were
in a lot of the work projects and were working, that there was some money and people were
getting a little money back into the -. So the miners themselves come back and organized
into a thing called the- oh boy. The Appalachian Committee for Full Employment
was the first community action organization in Perry County and it was organized by one
of my heroes, an old man by the name of Everett Thorpe who’s now dead. They was the one that drawed up the community
action plan for eastern Kentucky and later was taken away from ’em of course. So I began working with Everett Thorpe during
that period. Everett was an old union organizer and he
was in his sixties, he had retired from the mines then. I got hooked up with him as his aid, and I
guess there’s where I really got my biggest influence, in terms of knowing how to deal
with people, in terms of labor. I probably learned more from Everett that
I did anybody because I worked with him day and night for about three years. Interviewer – Tell us a little bit about him,
his background. Buck – He was raised in (Br ) County. Everett was. Come from a large family of mountain people. His father was a mountain farmer. And he’d somehow managed around and got an
8th grade education. And that was almost impossible during the
period he was growing up there in the 1900s in ( ) county, I’m sure. But anyway, he somehow got educated. He got interested in law. He always wanted to be a lawyer is what he
really wanted to be, but he never had the money to go to college and never had the money,
so he had to go to work. He orginally started working on the railroad
also. Started out working on the railroad at a really
young age and managed to study law. He had gotten all these law books and he could
– really, really knew the law, labor law especially, he really knew that. He could quote it to you all day. And he was also a supporter of Eugene Debbs. He got acquainted with Eugene Depps at some
convention in New Jersey or somewhere, I forget where it was, way back in the 20s or 30s. He had met Depps personally, and I think he
was even one of Debbs supporters when he run for president, when they had him in prison
so he had all that background. He’d met all these people. Debbs was one of his heroes and he’d been
involved in all the railroad strikes. Later he’d come into the mines and he got
to organizing in the mines, organized the UMW. Fired five times by the company for union
activity and ended up being superintendent of the company, so you know, he had a lot
going for him. So I meet this guy, you know, and he’s willing
to take me under his arm. I was his organizer, and he was going to learn
me how to organize people. And he did. The guy really did. He really knew how – and was at this time
getting sort of up in years, and he just didn’t have the energy to direct all this and he
needed somebody to that for him. So I went with him, and he was the one that
taught me all the little tricks, how to deal with a group, and how to deal with individuals,
how to get in and out of the community without getting shot, you know, and all that kind
of stuff. I really owe a lot to him. I got to say that. He was really a big influence in my life. Interviewer – What were some of his secrets
– Buck – There really are no secrets. One thing we always did, we never talked about
anything we didn’t know what it was. We had to know exactly what we’s talking about. The whole secret of it is, is just knowing
what the hell you’re doing. Knowing what you’re talking about and somebody
asking you a question and being able to answer it. And be yourself is the most important thing. Just be yourself. Try to be nothing other than what you are
is the big secret of that. Interviewer – Were you still working in the
mines? Were you working? Buck – Yeah. And just after that, that was my first go-around
with Everett. After that I moved back down into ( ) County
stayed until about two years after that. And then I got hired on as one of the supervisors
on the WET program, work experience and training program which was quote – the happy pappy’s(?). So I got involved in that. And was up with this group of people one day
fighting forest fires with the state forestry department. And we worked about 12 hours, 12 of 14 hours
all day long. And if you’ve ever fit fire in your life,
you’ll know what you’re going through. Blisters all over your hands and feet, you’re
burnt up. And its right in the hottest, driest part
of the year. Ain’t no way you contain the fire in eastern
Kentucky when its windy and hot and dry. But we contained one big one and started home,
and these guys said we’ve got to go somewhere else. Theres this big fire up there, they need everybody,
bringing in people from all over the state to fight this – right in the head of ( ) Kentucky
which is 40 some miles from the county seat. So they hauled us up there and we got up there
about 10 o’clock that night. I was so damn tired I couldn’t stand up. Honest to God, I couldn’t have walked another
100 yards if I’d of had to. So I just said well – I learned some things
from Everett, you know. Theres no way you can work us over 8 hours
a day without giving us a break and giving us some food. I ain’t going do it. If these guys want to do it, they can do it
but I am not making these men go to work. They’ve not had a break, they’ve not had dinner,
and they’re not going to do it unless they get it. And they said we’re going to make you work. And we had this big old guy – one old guy
he just went up so far and started back over this way. (laughter) Big old tall guy. This forest warden pulled a 44 special out
of his holster and stuck it in this big old guy’s gut. And pulled the damn trigger and the damn thing
snapped. I don’t know what the shit happened. Then he shot under his clip and the damn thing
went off. How it come around to an empty chamber or
what it was, I don’t know. Well when this happened the other people started
getting mad. They just said, well hell you go ahead and
kill us we’re not going to work either. So there were about eight of us sort of just
walked off. We walked 40 some goddamn miles to Jackson
to where the main office was. We got there about 2 o’clock the next day. I mean we walked every damn step of it. You talk about blisters! We had ’em. What happened there, they said, well we’ll
take care of this. You all just – we don’t want it in the newspapers
or anything like this. We’ll take care of this little incident now. Buck, you’ve done a real good job with these
people. Tell you what we’re going to do . We’re going
to let you have an office job . So here I am all of a sudden, I’m a sitting in the private
office in the county judge’s office in ( ) County doing nothing! Absolutely nothing! (laughter) I’m there. I ain’t got no duties, nothing. So I started getting an idea how county government
is working. Theres nothing no more corrupt than eastern
Kentucky politics. Still is. Its not changed. This was 1966 by the way. I just set there, and I got to thinking about
that incident – there was never anything done about it. Those guys were treated like shit. Nobody didn’t really give a damn. I was responsible for those men on that particular
day, and I let them down. I didn’t know nothing about it and so what
I did – I had access to a telephone, I didn’t have one at home – so I just set there day
in and day out calling all these old boys, these unemployed fathers And other people
I knew. Said, look we’re getting shit-over throughout
this damn camp. We got to do something about this, and we
organized. I got those people organized from the county
judge’s office in (Britain? ) county using their money their funds. So we started an organization called the (Brittan)
County Grassroots Citizens Committee. First all poor group was ever put in there
in (Britain) County. In fact there were no organized groups there
except the JCs or Lions Club. Marie Turner was the superintendent who led
it with an iron hand and had been for 30 some years. So we got this organization started right
under her nose. And she didn’t know what the shit was going
on. We got started, we were very fortunate – at
that time there was some vistas come into the area that was sort of helping us out. The heathen so to speak. We just tried to figure out a way to use them
too. Hell, we know that part of the system too. So we’ll just use them also. So we got them on our side, and they come
in here and started day care programs and things like that – Marie Turner, she was sponsoring
them. So we got them on our side and got a newspaper
put together, a thing called the Grassroots Gossip. We’d tell what was happening in the courthouse
and you know. And we’d send these things – we’d put ’em
together. My brother was the editor of it, Jim. We put this little thing together every week
and we used Marie Turner’s mimeograph machine that she didn’t know about. And her stationery to print it on. We’d send this little thing out to all the
agencies in the state and to OEO Washington, the congressman’s office, the senator’s – give
’em all the information from this little group of people in eastern Kentucky. They didn’t know what the shit was going on
up there, you know. They thought the revolution had done started. But anyway, we finally did get recognized
by the local community action program. And of that little group, I mean they really
put the screws to us too. They tried every way in the world to disband
the group and do everything in the world. But out of that group there was some things
accomplished. We got roads in the communities which had
never had a road in a very short time. The school children, you know – they would
build bridges so they wouldn’t have to wade the creek. And the school buildings in general got fixed
up. And then we made a big difference in who could
be elected in that county. You got three or four hundred people, that’s
a big vote these people’s got families. So they did see us as a threat. The poor guys who were working on these programs
got better conditions and they got tools to work with, transportation. So a lot of things come out of that organization. Course they finally got rid of me. To say the least. I mean I no longer had my private office in
the county courthouse, I can assure you of that. And so I was without a job. I come back up into Hazard, up in Perry County,
up here where I live right now, and begin working in the mines again. I worked for about three or four months and
the telephone rung when I come home and it was Everett once more. Said, look, look I need your help. Good Everett, what do you need? And he had someway wiggled his way round into
becoming the community action director of Perry County. (laughter) I have no idea how this happened. He said, I need an assistant. Would you like to work for me again? I certainly would, you know, so I went down
and began working with Everett Thorpe once more. We set out to – he had this master plan about
how Perry County could be organized. It took us several months to get that thing
figured out, what we was going to do there. We set about organizing the county once more. And what we did, we did organize 15 communities
in Perry County in that period. We started 15 community centers. We actually had two black community centers
in that county. And then all of a sudden we had another big
powerful organization. We called this – the main organization was
called The Perry County Citizens Action Committee. And what we did, we went around to in these
various communities and set up organizations to elect people to this Perry County Community
Action Committee who was just run by Everett Thorpe, of course. And through that we did get representation
from the communities on the local community action boards and had a voice in all the programs
that was coming into the area at that time, like Headstart, Job Corps. That county-wide organization that we’d set
up and no other county had it, had an organization like that. So this was probably the ( )county experience
and the Perry county experience once more was probably where I got most of the background
in community organizing. And I’m going to tell you it was really a
hard job both places, you know. (Bre ) County, I walked more than I rode because
a lot of places I went to there were no roads and so I had to walk in and out of the hollows
and do that kind of stuff. ( )County was a little easier to get around
in and I had a car. So it become a little easier. That was probably where I got most of the
organizing in my whole life was Perry and (Bethy) counties. anyway, finally the organization got so strong
Washington, when it got scared of that Perry County organization, and they started putting
the screws to me and Everett and the fact even the board that finally merged into a
four county board and they did this to get rid of Perry County is what they really done
– so it wouldn’t have all the power. So they merged the Community Action Agency
into a four county camp(?) which meant you had three more counties to fight with than
you previously had. They really put the screws to me and Everett,
but by that time I had got hooked up with a group of conservationists in the area called
the Appalachian Group to Save the Land and People who were just beginning their fight
against strip mining – and that was another that really got violent also. We had a lot of violence in them mountains
in 67. By that time I was hooked up with them while
I was working in the Community Action Program, and they were operating in ( ) County must
getting organized so I got in over there and helped with some of that, organizing. And finally it got so rough we just resigned. I resigned first and Everett hung on a few
months after that and then he resigned the Community Action Program also. I went with a group called the Appalachian
Volunteers which was started at Berea College and was still very much active in the strip
mining struggle and we were not out to abolish ( ) strip mining still destroying the land. Interviewer – Lets go back a little bit just
a minute. I’m interested in the impact that the community
action programs had. You said this happy pappy program that you
worked on, was it a make-work program? Buck – It was a make-work program. It really was. It didn’t last all that long. But what did come out of that as far as lasting,
you had Headstart in the schools for the first time which I think has meant a lot to the
school kids. And you had Job Corps come out of that which
depending on how you look at that. I’d say was pretty successful. Especially for our kids, you know, like low
income families getting to learn a trade. So there were some positive things come out
of that. As a result of that people become more politically
inclined a whole period again. You know we’re talking about younger people
now because the old depression era people were dying out. The New Dealers were really going. So the younger people – which I was much younger
then – got that period in their life where they could spend with these old New Dealers
and these people, and I think from that just sort of passed the torch on to keep the spirit
alive to get in there and fight for what you need. I do think there were some very – health care
improved, school systems got title 1, title 2 money for all sorts of improvements in the
education system. So there was a lot of positive things come
out of that whole period. I do know that. And they did have did have an impact on the
younger people. Course every job is created. There were real jobs created in working within
the programs and for the first time the teachers had aids in the schools. Looking back on it there were a lot of negative
things that did happen during that period – we’ll agree with that – but there were a
lot of positive things. And I think the most positive thing was to
have people like Eula Hall come out of that. There’s nothing more positive than that. Really. Interviewer – This community participation
was an aspect written into the law – maximum feasible participation. Buck – Maximum feasible participation. Well that’s what we did that. We did that in Perry County and it looks good
on paper. But philosophically it don’t work in Washington,
because when you get people writing up their own programs and running ’em it don’t work
well in Frankfurt and Washington. It really don’t. It’s just the rhetoric is all it is. Interviewer – So they didn’t support it? Buck – Absolutely not. In fact they passed the Green amendment. Her congressman at that time, a really liberal
congressman, the late Carline Perkins, he got so scared of it in the 7th district – and
he was the one that helped pull out the old OEO legislation, or said he did. But if you’d read the doggone thing, nobody
had ever voted for it. It was against every institution in the United
States, the legislation itself was – you ought to read it sometime. Its amazing what’s in that stuff. And all of a sudden these senators and congressmen
read this and said My God, there’s no way we can let this go on. These people are taking over. (laughter) And they would have. I mean if you look at that legislation – I
don’t know if you’ve ever seen it – honest to God it just makes everything, even the
churches. It don’t leave nobody out. And old Perkins, he got scared. He was head of the House Labor Committee,
that education thing. He was actually about the third powerfullest
man in Washington. He was chairman of the labor committee and
all that kind of stuff. He got the shit scared out of him because
people were just raising all kinds of hell down here in the 7th district. He wanted to do something about that, but
he as afraid to do it, politically he was afraid to do it because all these people had
voted for him and he wanted to keep ’em. So he got Edith Green. She was from out West or northwest or somewheres. Was a freshman congressman, just got elected. So he hodooed her into writing up the Green
amendment but it was called Perkins legislation but he was afraid to give all this power back
– to give it back to the local superintendents and county judges. He thought we didn’t know about that. Old Carl did. They caught on to it. After a couple of years they really figured
out what was happening real fast. They knew they had to do something about it. So we got the Green amendment. Interviewer – Why were they scared of it? Buck – When people didn’t make decisions for
themselves especially people who have never really had the opportunity. And you’re in office and then all of a sudden
they start asking you questions that you don’t want to answer. It scares the hell out of you. And that’s exactly what was happening. People were starting to get more involved
– you get people organized and they get involved and they start asking questions. And it usually always leads to a local courthouse
or the statehouse or Washington. In the final analysis that’s where it all
ends up – here’s the problem. And you know it scares the hell out of people. They want to stay in office. So they’re going to get rid of you anyway
they can. Interviewer – You mentioned earlier when you
went back to work with Everett Thorpe you had a master plan for organizing Perry County? Can you talk a little about what that plan
was? Buck – That plan was real simple. We targeted communities that sort of spread
out throughout where we could say, you know, represented the whole county. They were chosen. Right on from the old coal camps. And the whole plan there was to go to these
communities, and if we just got three people organized, that would be the organization. What we were really setting up at first were
contacts in those communities that we could work with, potential leaders. We would work with these two or three, or
four or five or six individuals to give them the organizing skills that they would need
to organize the community. And that’s what we did. Some communities we went in we just organized
it ourself. Some of them were a little harder and more
remote. Now we had to work with individuals to learn
them the organization skills and how to run a meeting and all that kind of stuff. And that was the whole plan – surround Hazard. We sort of had Hazard surrounded which was
the county seat. The PCAC would be the umbrella organization
of that group. They would be the one to elect people through
the Perry County Citizens Action Committee, is what it was, the people that was organizing
these communities and elected the people to this umbrella group which we had started earlier. So we had the umbrella group and we had these
15 community groups out there feeding into that. And we also created 15 jobs like that. We created 15 organizers and 15 community
centers which all kinds of activities take place in, like daycare centers. It was a place where people could come and
talk about strip mining and whatever it was. It was really a community information center,
is what we were really setting up, where this information would be available because even
in the 60s, you know, people were not very mobile in eastern Kentucky. And we thought this information would be important
to have right in the community. And we also had little health fairs and all
that kind of stuff that took place. Health screenings and all that taking place
in these communities so that people didn’t have to go to the county seat just to get
a little simple hearing test or something. So we had it pretty well figured out. But Washington was really looking down on
it really hard, you know. They were really getting scared about people
doing this kind of thing. Really harmless stuff in terms of what we
were doing. It was not nothing that was going to start
a revolution, that was for damn sure. But it was things – they did not want people
to have access to information was the biggest thing. And that’s what we were really shooting into
it was information. There was every kind of information we wanted
from those centers. We made sure it was there. And when people get information, they start
asking questions. That’s what was happening. There was no master about a revolution taking
over the county government. If you’d hear ’em talking in the courthouse,
you know, it was a bunch of communists out there that was going to take over Perry County. Who’d want it? (laughter) When I say master
plan, that’s what the whole thing was about. It was the least we could do in the position
that we was in was to feed these communities information, have ’em organized and feed ’em
information. We had no say-so in what that community done
with that information or what activity took place. That was all decided by the community. Cause there was no way we could spend all
that time in every community anyway. So that was what it was. Then after I left, I went with the ABs and
got connected with the Southern Leadership Conference. Interviewer- How did that happen? Buck- I was active in the issues of strip
mining and I worked in black neighborhoods in the mountains, and I was down in West Virginia
one weekend and I met Andrew Young. He was a representative of SCLC. At a rally we were sponsoring the black lung
people. I was also involved in the black lung stuff
with Eula. He was at this rally and I met him. And they were just starting to implement the
plan of the great march on Washington in 1968, I believe it was. And so I met him and sort of got connected
up through him. And I was the Appalachian coordinator for
that poor peoples march, and also on the committee of the national organizers. Interviewer – That was predominantly a black
organization and that march from the national publicity was seen as a civil rights organization. What was it like in reality? Buck – I always thought that also. The SCLC was always more than an all black
organization. In fact all the support come from white liberals
I’m sure. But there were a lot of whites involved in
that organization throughout the South. Throughout the whole United States in fact. The planning committee itself, which I was
the Appalachian member of that of the march was made up of Latinos, it was made up of
blacks, white Appalachians, Native Americans, just all segments of the society was represented
on that committee. And all their meetings, all these various
groups were represented. It did start as ScLC deal at first, but the
ScLC couldn’t deal with it so they had to bring in all these other groups to help coordinate
all this stuff. So when they said poor peoples march, it was
a poor peoples march from all groups in the society today. They were really well represented. Fact some of the best representatives were
the Chicanos and probably the strongest. Interviewer – Was it hard organizing people
to support what was seen as a black organization ? Buck – No. It wasn’t for me. I don’t know about anybody else. I didn’t have any problem. I got three busloads to go from this area. So that’s a lot of people from a little area
like this. Those people were white. White Appalachians. They didn’t have any reservations whatsoever. I don’t know. I can’t speak for other areas what kind of
problems they had. But the Chicanos certainly didn’t have problems
getting people, I do know that. Even the American Indians didn’t, so, you
know, they were all represented. And of course that ( ) we were down in Atlanta
with Dr. King. We were at his birthday party just shortly
before he was killed. I think he was 38 or 40, I forget how old
he was. But I was at that party, and we had a big
meeting that whole weekend that we had the party at his last birthday. Even there, there were people from all over
these various ethnic groups from all over the United States, had been personally invited
by Dr. King himself to that birthday party. So it wasn’t just a back thing. It really wasn’t. Interviewer – Had you been aware of the civil
rights movement? Buck – Oh yeah. Yeah I was very much aware of it. I had followed it. Anytime you worked over in those communities
you know you’re dealling with civil rights. And as far as I know, we had the only black
representation on the community action board in this area because we had worked the black
communities also. No other community action group in these four
counties had ever made any effort to organize the blacks. So we were into it very early, into civil
rights. And they become some of our most vocal members
also. The blacks did from this area. Interviewer – I’m interested in the Appalachian
volunteers and what that organization was about? How it got started and what it was trying
to do? Buck – The Appalachian volunteers originally
got started as a group of students coming into the mountains sort of working in the
communities like painting school houses and building play grounds and that sort of thing. Until it sort all of a sudden got the notion
they wanted to get into political action stuff. So at Berea College they formed what they
called the Appalachian volunteers and applied for a big federal grant to do more of this
kind of work in the communities with the idea that they would get more involved in the local
politics of the community and the region which is really what happened. I was working with the AVs when I doing all
that poor peoples campaign stuff. So what the AVs really did for me personally,
Eula also – she was one too – gave us much more freedom and a much broader area to work
in where before that had sort of been confined to a particular county or a couple of counties
where we weren’t doing the things we wanted to do; give us a much bigger area in which
to operate in, and give us a little bit more money and a vehicle and we got very mobile. I think probably the most successful work
that was done by the Appalachian volunteers or vista we used a lot of Vista’s, in fact
I was a Vista supervisor myself when I was an Appalachian volunteer I was a field coordinator. I think the most effective work was done with
the local volunteers from the Vista or AVs. Course Eula can certainly – you can see the
results of that. But there were other places in the mountains
you know that we had a really – we had to work with the old grass roots organization
who had become a local Vista out of that. And started a building beautiful community
center right out of the middle of nowhere in ( ) County. And she’s dead now. She passed away a couple of years ago by the
name of Nancy Cole and she had activities going on there from the 60s right up until
she died. She had garden co-op, she had sewing co-ops
going and all that kind of stuff. There was a lot of individual success stories
where people just dug into the communities and really done something that lasted. That community center is still there and those
programs still go. There’re still going even though things is
?? same as Deeper Creek Clinic. So the most effective work – and then you
had a few hotheads, of course, the radicals. Dad(?) never met a radical until he got to
east Kentucky. And they didn’t last very long. They really didn’t. They got weeded out real fast and they left
just about as big as they come but they still had all these good local people who at that
time even though that’s how I met Eula was through the APs – all of us all of a sudden
was mobile enough that we could do things with one another. Wasn’t just one individual doing something
here, you know, we had a network of people throughout the mountains. There was me and Eula, there was Nancy Cole
and all kinds of people all of a sudden running round the mountains and doing things as a
group – not as an individual but as a group of people. And this had a big impact on communities,
all these various communities that work on projects within another community of help
support a strike or a boycott from other parts of the mountains. This was carry-over til we had such things
as Vista and AV. So you know positive stuff come out of that. And then we’d go into another state. We got down into Tennessee. We were in West Virginia, we were in Virginia. And so it was really just starting a network
of people, local community people and some of the other ones stayed on, you know. The good ones stayed around and they were
doing things too. So all of a sudden you had plenty of people
doing things in the county or region. You had probably 50 people working together
to see that something was done, you know. And I think that was one of the good things
that come out of the AVs was getting all these people communicating with one another. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the
picket line with Eula Hall and a boycott, picketing in Washington, DC, the justice department,
the agriculture. And all of a sudden you had people like that
working together. It was really a good scene. And we still do to a certain extent. So there have been some really lasting things
come out of all this, real positive things – people getting together an working together
and dealing with a situation, dealing with these issues. Interviewer – Did you meet as a group of Appalachian
volunteers, did you kind of get together to coordinate your activities? Buck – Yeah we did. We have regular meetings. The meetings that was really the most effective
was the ones they didn’t want us to have. The directors of the program. Me and Eula and a bunch of us would get together
to talk about going to Brookside for a picket line or going up on a strip job, stopping
a bull dozer from pushing somebodys house down. That was one of the really good meetings things
were of. Course we had our organizational meetings
too, but this is where people were really starting to sit down and talk with one another
as a group, local people, you know, and hell, I was up one time on insubordination with
the AVs. They tried to get rid of me. Interviewer – Who was running the AVs? Buck – ( ). He’s the head of the West Virginia
legal service program now. Interviewer – Is he from around here? Buck – He’s originally from North Carolina. He’s from the Appalachians around here. He’s a good guy. I think he got in over his head and didn’t
know how the shit to deal with it, too. But I was brought up on insubordination. I think Eula may have been too. Nancy Cole was, All at one time. They were going to get rid of every one of
us at one time. Interviewer – What had you done? Buck- There was this environmental group. I always referred to ’em – everybody called
them anti-strip mining group and all that – The Appalachian group to save the people. Well they got pretty mod(?) sort of got dominated
by school teachers and others. Other liberal do-gooders who didn’t want to
do anything but go down and talk to the local politicians and go Franfurt and have this
big lobbying effort to do – get regulations and stuff like that. And what we had done in the meantime, we’d
organized another environmental group called Mountain Top Gun Club. Environmental group? That name scares the hell out of people, but
that’s exactly what it was. And what these people were doing, they were
going to these landowners as a group, as a conservation group, and a sportsman group
and they were leasing land from landowners at a $1 a year to build shooting ranges on. The whole idea behind that was – it was very,
very clear – that the reason we was doing that was, we wanted that coal operator – when
he comes there he could no longer deal with that individual, he had to deal with the Mountain
Top Gun Club. And that’s all it was. Just not leave the individual out there to
have his land – stripped by coal operator which they could do. They could still do it. But they’d whole lot rather deal with that
individual than a neighborhood, the Mountain Top Gun Club. And it was a conservation group. This scared the hell out of ( ). And we did
have people go up on these strip mines and shooting on the weekends, you know, just let
the coal operators know that they were there. If you want to come out and talk to us, come
on. We’ll willing to talk if they’d come. But anyway that scared Bill. When they found out that we were involved
in that, he thought it was insubordination. He had to get rid of us, but what happened
was we caught wind of it before we went to this big meeting, and we got our troops in
order. They thought we didn’t know nothing about
it. Just before that they turned it over to Dave
Lawes, up at the University somewhere. So we got wind of this and we got our troops
in order. Then we got to this big meeting and they brought
the charges up. We almost fired the director. They were going to set up a committee of me
and Eula and somebody else to run the whole organization. (laughter) It backfired on ’em, they didn’t
get rid of us. (laughter) And then some of us had pistols. We carried pistols to the meeting on the side
as members of the Mountain Top Gun Club too. Interviewer – It seems like a lot of times
you were fighting the people who were kind of setting up the organizations… Buck – Yeah, you do its a struggle. You just have to stay one step ahead of us,
you know. So I did that for 20 some years, you know. I was on the road so long in 1982 or 83, I
decided I can’t do this no more. I got to be in one place. I got to be a little more stable than what
I am. In 1982 or 83 I just sort of hung it up for
a while, you know. (end of side 2) Interviewer – …real tensions
that everyone faces is that a lot of these efforts that reach the federal level…when
the community action starts working the people start actually pushing beyond these channels
and it sets up the tension within the entity itself. Buck – It does, it does. We did have to be very true with the Appalachian
volunteers. With these organizations, you know, I had
to make a living an I’ve done just about everything because a lot of people were not paid. I’ve dug graves. I ‘ve had to dig graves and I’m a trained
legal assistant, I’ve worked as a paralegal. I’ve had to do all kinds of other things,
you know just to get by. Its not been easy doing this. Its not easy at all. You finally get to the point where you do
burn out, and like I say in ’83 I was ready to quit. And I did. I’d never seen none of my kids really grow
up. My daughters was about to get married and
I hadn’t met the husband of until about two weeks before they were even married. So its pretty sad you know that this happens. So I want some family life too. I hadn’t had a whole lot of it even though
I had been married all those years, still married to the same woman. And I wanted to look for something I could
still be in the community, have connections with the old friends and make new ones also. I was working for a gas company as a pipeline
inspector until I come here. Thats what I was doing. I felt relieved in doing that, you know. It was so different and I was so relaxed. It wasn’t easy work, it wasn’t hard work. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. But then I started doing – Anne Johnson who
had come into the area to do Harlan(?) county USA. She helped on that. She just happened to stay in the area after
that and then she come to work here a couple of years, I think. And she decided to do this whole series of
videos on the war on poverty in eastern Kentucky. She approached me with the idea of helping
do that, that series of videos. At first I didn’t, I really didn’t want to
do it. In fact she made several trips before I said
OK. I’ll do it on a part-time basis. I’ll do it on a contract basis. You pay me so much per day when I work on
it. I didn’t really want to work fulltime and
get back in the community. And then I got to working at that. I got interested in doing radio and then all
of a sudden it dawned on me, well hell, this is where its at. I can actually drive to work every morning
and drive home every night. This is what I want to do. So that’s where I got interested in the radio
stuff and trying to figure out how to keep in contact with the old organizations and
the people I’ve been involved with all these years, but to meet new people and thats whats
happening with the radio stuff. And that’s why I’m here. That’s the only reason why I’m here. Because of that. It still gives me contact with the community
and the region, and I can sit there and talk into five states. Thats a better job than getting in the car
and driving from here to West Virginia. So its worked out real well for me. And I’m still very much involved in those
communtiies and organizations too. Its not that I just quit doing it. I’m in a position now where we can get more
information out to these groups, they feed information to me. I feed information to them. I’ve got people all over the mountains calling
in news stories to me. I can have people come and talk here in the
studio. Or I can go out into that community and have
community forums. And I can do all that stuff here. In a much more relaxed atmosphere. Its not gotten any easier in terms of the
hours you put into it. You still put a lot of hours into it, but
its very soul satisfying, so to speak. I’m home and I’ve been here 7 years. I feel like I’m a little more stable. I’m around my family and its been really good
for me, to be in radio, been really good. I really took a advantage of it too and I’m
going to continue to do that also. And then it was a very pleasant experience
working with Anne and the video series. That was a very pleasant experience because
it – what we really done in that, what made me get excited about it when I got to thinking,
it was really just the history of what I’ve done also. The whole history of what I’ve done. So that’s been very pleasing also. The videos have done quite well, you know
like the srtip mine thing. Several award winning videos come out of that
series and that’s really good, you know. So that’s been very pleasing also. That’s hard work now, I’ve got to tell you
about video, theres nothing easy about it. A lot of drudgery in it, isn’t it? (laughter)
And that’s when the hard work begins after all this is done. Interviewer – That’s right. Buck – So anything else you all would like
to ask me? We’ve kind of skipped – Interviewer – Yeah. Alright. We’ll go back a little bit to – I’m interested
in impact the Vistas program and what kinds of young people came in to work on that – or
not so young people, how they viewed their jobs, how the communities saw them, what kind
of impact that had. Buck – Well, if you look at it overall it
didn’t have a lot. The whole Vista program over it all. But if you picked out certain areas in the
mountains where decent people come in to really do something and not just be here to raise
a little ruckus and leave the next day. And some of them people stayed. They are still here today. If you going into the areas where they really
got in the community and was accepted they had a big impact. Especially around education and education
program. They were the very ones that come in, the
ones that come in was willing to do, start the daycare programs and stay with that. Started nutrition programs in the school and
stayed with it. I think they had a big impact. In terms of politics that they brought into
the area, I think what they really thought was that coming into the area and didn’t know
shit about nothing. You get in eastern Kentucky you’d better be
a pretty damn smart politician. Because these people got it, that’s what they
cut their teeth on, politics here in eastern Kentucky. And you’re not going to put nothing over on
them. And they were, you know, course you had people
come in who had Marxist here. they didn’t last six months. They were gone. You had some people who were socialists and
there’s a lot of people here that had Marxist and socialist tendencies. They still do. But they don’t need these people down here
trying to tell ’em about Marx or Engels or all that stuff. They know about that stuff. They may not know who these people are but
they practiced this for years. There was no stronger socialist movement anywheres
during the New Deal than there was right here in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and
those places. Look at TVA. That wasn’t Republicans that built that I
can assure you. That was probably the biggest concentration
of socialist and Marxists anywhere in the United States during that period when that
thing was being conceived and built. So we know all about that stuff. We may not practice it the way they wanted
to see it, take up arms and go out and take over a court house and all that kind of stuff. But we know about that stuff. Well they got paid a little more than we did
when they got here but they didn’t last long. Most people didn’t last long. When they got in here they started talking
about doctrine and stuff like that we didn’t want to hear that because we had practiced
it. We knew what it was, you know. They were talking about theory, well it wasn’t
theory to us. So they didn’t last too long. But when people come in and then many had
a skill or made an effort. People saw that they were there not just to
make a name for themselves, and I think they were very successful. But overall – I’m talking about particular
communities and regions – overall I think it was a big failure for the mountains. The local people that got involved in that
whole thing, a whole spectrum of people ( ) down in Pike County, Eula in ( Floyd? ) County, Nancy in Cole and those kind of
people who later on become these community Vistas it was quite successful. I can’t speak for the United States as a whole,
I don’t know. I can talk about this region only. I know I didn’t keep people around me – if
they got screwed up, we just kicked ’em out. We’d just send ’em somewhere else if we don’t
want ’em. In fact, when I become the field coordinator
for the Appalachian volunteers, we had an office then, right beside of Harry ( ) here
in ( ) and just down the street the first thing I done was got rid of all the Vistas. There wasn’t nobody left but me. Put a lock on the door, called Milton Nogle
told him what had happened. He said I couldn’t do that. I said, I’ve already done it. (laughter) He got out and got me all local
Vistas. I just got rid of the whole bunch. I just shipped ’em all out. Interviewer – So you had the money, you could
hire other help? Buck – They had the money. I didn’t have it. They had it. Milton, he had that money. We put it all into local Vista activities,
is what we did. And out of that come, you know, you got the
big community center up on Parker(?), is still going strong. It was in the 60s, you know. They got all kinds of stuff going on up there. And that was all started by local Vistas. These other guys were just lollygagging around
doing nothing. So we got rid of ’em. That’s what you do. Interviewer – I’m impressed by the connections
you had with a lot of different organizations that had been involved in these issues. I noticed here that you worked for the Total
Action – Buck – In the Shenandoah Valley, right. Interviewer – …the Roanoke(?) the workers
SCLC or Appalachian volunteers? You kind of in your experience you’ve seen
more of these different kinds of organizingations. What was the Roanoke (?)? Buck – It was just
exactly what it said. Total Action Against Poverty. And that’s exactly what they were doing. They were getting people involved in what
to do. It was appropriately named. I’d taken a vacation and went up to a little
town in northern Indiana, way up in the northern end of that thing. Called Pleasant Lake. And I had this real pretty little apartment
right overlooking the lake. I was going to rest for a couple of months. And one day somebody knocked on my door and
opened the door and it was a guy in a goatee and a black suit. He’d flown all the way from Roanoke, Virginia
and to show you what he knowed, I lived near Fort Wayne is where I was and he flew into
South Bend which is totally on the other side of the state trying to find me. When he got to Indiana, he had to travel all
the way across the state to find where I was at. And he said I’m Jim Jones and I’m a former
priest of the Cook County jail. I have this program down in the Shenandoah
Valley, I work for a place called Total Action Against Poverty and I need some organizers
to come and work for me. You’ve been recommended. I don’t know where he got my name or anything
like that. Well I was getting ready to come back to Kentucky
anyway. I’d had about all of Indiana I could take. If you’ve ever been there, you know what I
mean. (laughter) There’s just so many horseshoes
you can pitch. And so many pony pulls you can go to. (laughter) I’d had about all of Indiana I
wanted anyway. I got to thinking, well bullshit, this is
the way to get back to Kentucky and won’t cost me a damn dime. (laughter) So I said OK, I’ll come to Roanoke
if you’ll pay my way. He said I’ll buy you a plane ticket. I said, I ain’t going to fly. I want to drop my family off at home in Kentucky. So I can’t fly from Fort Wayne to Roanoke
and drop them out of the air. Said, no I ain’t going to do it that way. What happened was I picked up a newspaper
and run across an old ’53 Plymouth, one owner, ’53 Plymouth, this old woman wanted to sell
over in another little township there. And she only wanted $150 bucks for it. I went over and looked at this thing, mint
condition. I wanted that damn car is what I wanted. And I said I tell you what I will do. If you will give me the price of my ticket,
round trip, Roanoke to Fort Wayne, I’ll drive down there. What I was going to drive was that Plymouth. (laughter) He said, I’ll do it. So he sent me the price of a round trip ticket
from Fort Wayne to Roanoke and I bought that ’53 Plymouth and drove to Roanoke after I
dropped my family off at home. I went down there – God, they was spread out
all over the damn block I think it probably caught fire and burnt the whole town down. They were like, 15 components there. I bet there was over 200 secretaries, he had
to go through 15 secretaries to get to the director, whoever he was. I didn’t meet him I don’t know. Anyway, Jim Jones, said we need some white
organizers to work out with these other Klansmen down there in the Shenandoah Valley. So I’d been there a few days and an old buddy
of mine showed up from over in Williamsburg over in Bell County. What are you doing – he showed up in a big
Charger, big wheels on it, you know. He said I come down here to be an organizer
for this program. He said, What are you? I said, That’s what I’m doing here too, Albert. So theres one of my old buddies down there
with me, you know. Anyway, I was hired to be the senior neighborhood
organizer of this big camp program which covered four counties, spread out all over the Blue
Ridge mountains. Impossible job. And they were going to send all these Vistas
to work with me. I was to train these Vistas. And so we got started. And we put together a lot of organizations
out in the counties, at that time I think the big issue was welfare rights, so we put
in all these welfare – we started all these welfare rights organizations in the surrounding
counties there, Bottletop, Rock Bridge, Roanoke and there’s another one, I forget, I can’t
remember, all the counties was so big. But the biggest part of the activity was taking
part in the black community in Roanoke which everybody was just ignoring. Even the CAP program, but there was nothing
being done with this black community. So I moved down in there, near an old house. So I went down in that black community and
got me a house, got familiar with the neighborhood and got familiar with the people. And these people wanted to do something. They were getting screwed over by the welfare
system and were getting screwed over by the CAP agency. They were getting screwed by everybody. They were paying them no attention. So I ended up working with them, and we started
the all black welfare rights organization right there in Roanoke, right in the town
itself, and worked it around to where we got these black and whites organized together,
the whites out in the county and the blacks in the inner city. This thing didn’t go well at all with Mr.
Jones, I want to tell you it didn’t go well at all. Well, we had 17 components and 17 preachers. Honest to God. Every component there was run by a preacher. Episcopalians, southern Baptists, Methodists,
Presbyterians, the director was a Catholic. I have nothing against these religions but
everything there was run by a preacher. I mean this is all white Shenadoah Valley
To hell with the black population, you know. So these blacks and whites got to mixing with
each other in this organization. It scared the hell out of the local Klan who
were also worked there, you know, right in the organization. And they started putting the screws to Jones
who was my immediate supervisor. And during this time the blacks of this organization
or somebody firebombed the building. (laughter) the buses. They had firebombed the building. Whether it was this group or not, I don’t
know. But anyway, he thought it was. So he called me in his office one day, and
looked me right in the eye. He said, from now on you’re going to work
only with the people that spit in the eyes of a black man or a welfare recipient. That was my instruction that I got from my
immediate supervisor. And I told him to kiss my ass. (laughter)
And I left. (laughter) And I went to Highlander after
that. So that was my experience in the Shenandoah
Valley. It was good because we did get the blacks
and whites there working together and who firebombed that building I don’t know, I don’t
think it was that welfare rights group organization. I don’t think they would have got into something
like that. but anyway, Jim Jones suspected it was, but
I don’t think it really was. Because they really tried to work with the
program, but anyway he thought it was. He thought that. I was responsible for organizing ’em so he
would give me my instructions what I could do from then on. ( ) after that. I stayed there about eight months before I
got the screws put to me there. That’s just the way you have to live if you
follow that kind of work. Theres some good places and bad ones. Interviewer – What about the Miners for Democracy
and the whole effort – Buck – That was more in West Virginia. My involvement in that was very little because,
like I say, it was in West Virginia. But we did get the black lung organization
here involved with them. I had very little dealings with that whole
movement there in West Virginia. ( ) Miller is a personal friend. And we did have chapters and a black lung
organization organized here that worked with that group, but that was primarily a West
Virginia thing. And Eula was involved in some of that also. I don’t know to what extent. She was probably no more than I was or less,
I don’t have any idea. But that was the extent of my involvement
in that Miners for Democracy thing. Interviewer – So here you are more focused
on black lung. Buck – Right. We didn’t have anything here. We didn’t have no union. There was no union here by then at all. But we did have these old retired miners organizing
these various black lung groups. And they did support that movement and ( ) Miller. That was the extent of that. I’m very much aware of it. I knew what was happening. But I did not have that much involvement in
that movement. Interviewer – But in the organizing drive
say in Brookside ( ) would you have been more involved in that? Buck – We were more involved in supporting
them with the black lung people, the welfare rights people supported that. And that was people that had already been
organized. We started a big organize drive around that. It was people who were already organized who
would go and support that. ‘Course there are always new people, you can
always pick up new people sometime with something new like that’s going on. Whereas most of the people had already been
organized into welfare rights or black lung of something another like that. Even some of the younger people. Interviewer – The Eastern Kentucky Welfare
Rights Organization, did you help start that. Buck – Yeah. Me and Eula worked with that, and that’s where
I got my organizing experience when I went down into Virginia working with welfare right
recipients. Interviewer – What was that like? What was the welfare rights organization like? Buck – I think it was one of the best organizations
ever was in the mountains. Reason I say that is, it was the only time
– here you already had these old coal miners organized into the black lung association
and it was miners, that’s what it was. Old retired miners, trying to get a bill passed
and trying to get some benefits for their illness. and then all of a sudden you get
these welfare rights people organized which was primarily in a lot of cases, mothers. The people who stayed home and took care of
their children. Course there was men in there too. They was mostly dominated by women which I
think was really good. And then all of a sudden they figured why
don’t we join forces with the black lung organization. So you had ( ) and the black lung organization
working together as a group. they just about covered the whole spectrum
of people – welfare, mothers, families and before that there was no way somebody worked
for the mines was going to work for ( ) to be honest about it man or woman. For the first time, these two groups come
together as a unit, as a lobbying unit and I think after that happened it become much
more effective. That’s when the law started getting passed. That’s when free textbooks were brought into
the schools. That’s when free lunches was brought into
the schools or reduced prices. All that started happening after these two
groups combined. Got together which was very positive and then
when the black lung law was passed in ’69 was just as much an effort of the welfare
rights people, just as much a victory for them as it was those miners because they was
working on the buses going talking to the congressmen and the senators and things along
with these. And I think that made a big impression on
congress and Washington at that time. Hey, we’d better do something or these people
have really got their shit together. We better pass some damn mine health and safety
and get these people off our backs. I thought it was a very effective thing. I don’t know whether it was planned like that
or it just happened. I think it just gradually happened. Said hell, we’ve got a lot in common. You know, we’re all out to get a better shake
out of this deal. You know it really is how that fused together
and become so effective it really is. Most moving thing I’ve ever seen. And the black lung bill come out of that plus
all the reforms to welfare. They come out of that also. but that was the biggest economic boost that
Eastern Kentucky has ever had. That is the mainstay of the economy right
now in eastern Kentucky. If you took all the people in eastern Kentucky,
took all the benefits away from these miners, there wouldn’t be a Wal Mart in eastern Kentucky. There wouldn’t be an A and P in eastern Kentucky,
there wouldn’t be a Kroger. If you took that one program away from these
coal miners. They’re the people who not only draw those
black lung benefits, they also draw UMWA pensions and they also draw their social security benefits. They’re better off now economically than they’ve
ever been in their life. They’re the people who buy the big items. They’re the people who buy the big trucks. They’re the people who buy the fancy shotguns
from the sporting goods store. And they’re the ones got the money to spend
at the local Kroger. It ain’t these guys working in the mines. They just barely getting by. So if you took those out of eastern Kentucky
you wouldn’t see a shopping mall between here and Raleigh. So I think its been the biggest economic shot
that eastern Kentucky ever had was that bill. Its for millions of dollars in this economy. That’s what this economy is based on. Its a welfare state. If you look at this section ( ?? ) County
has got 45% unemployment. 45%!! These people don’t have nothing. They’re existing on food stamps. Interviewer – What do you think of the prospects
for – talk about where you think things are now and where they need to go in terms of
these problems. Buck – Well. Where they are now, course you only got a
glimpse of that area, driving up from Lexington is awfully pretty on the parkway, so you may
have seen the good and the bad. But if you really look at the – fly over it
sometime in an airplane. Strip mining what we preached ever since we
started has destroyed the economic base of the region, of this particular region I’m
living in. Not only destroyed the economic base you got
to hold it responsible for the declining deep mine industry. Its cheaper to strip it than it is to deep
mine it. So not only did you destroy the environment,
you also destroyed that whole economic base. Instead of maybe forty years of working in
coal in this part of the country you may have had a hundred year or a hundred and fifty
years of deep mining. Deep mining has its problems, theres no doubt
about that but it does employ more people. Other little businesses sort of flourish,
you know like the lumber companies and all the small business, they always done business
with the deep miners. Take strip mining, they don’t buy 2 by 4s
from lumber, ?? cloth and all this stuff. These are local businesses and need it. So the economic base, strip mining has destroyed
the economic base of the region. I’m speaking about the region that me and
Eula live in. They destroyed any potential that we may have
had in terms of tourism. Nobody’s going to drive to New York and see
a strip mine. They’re by here one time, they never come
back. And in terms of other factories coming in,
strip mining has destroyed the water. We don’t have drinking water in eastern Kentucky
now. I got a well a hundred and twenty foot deep. I can’t drink the water out of it. I have another one 70 foot deep. I can’t even use it. Its full of oil. Just driving over the roads here looking at
the infrastructure of these cities, we don’t even have adequate sewage for our cities,
you certainly can’t entice industry in if you don’t have sewage and can’t take care
of a town population of 1200. What’s the future? I don’t know. The education system’s bout one of the worst
you’ll ever find. That new school reform act may or may not
make a difference. I don’t know. Hopefully it will. To be honest about it , the only thing I would
see right now in the immediate, next ten years would be some kind of a massive program which
can only be financed by the government ’cause I know private industry is not going to do
it, is the reforestation and the cleaning up of this environment here in eastern Kentucky,
I think, create thousands of jobs. I mean really jobs to put the trees back on
the mountains, to clean up the streams, to build sewer and sewage treatment plants, put
in water. I think immediately you could solve the unemployment
problem in eastern Kentucky at least with just a program like that. And not only that, look at the people it would
give jobs – it’d be heavy equipment operators, it’d be carpenters, it’d be pipe fitters,
I mean really skilled jobs could be created. Which would create other businesses around
there. And I think in the long run – it’d be a costly
program- but I think in the long run the cleaning up of the environment here and bringing in
these other businesses, as a visitor that would feed itself. And then you could talk about bringing in
industry. There’s no way you could seriously talk about
bringing in industry into this area and really take a good look at the landscape around you
and what all has to be done before we can get into the talking stage of going down talking
some manufacturing company into putting in a plant. There’s just too much has to be done. I don’t see that being done. I don’t see the local leaders taking the initiative,
saying look let’s clean these rivers and these creeks up. Lets build ’em and lets get our water systems
up to par. Plant trees back on the side of this mountain
instead of this old ugly vegetation they got. And really do something. And then seriously talk about bringing in
industry. That’s all I can see happening. Interviewer – What about community groups-
is there a chance for doing the kind of organizing you’ve done over your life, to have the pressure
brought by the people who live here an unemployment league maybe. Buck – Yeah. I think its going to take a bigger effort
than what we’ve put forth in the past. I really do. I think its going to take a lot more people
to deal with it, and God knows we’ve got ’em because you know we’ve got 45% unemployed. A lot of people ain’t doing nothing. I’ll bet they’re getting bored. Yeah, its going to take that. And take a bigger effort than what we’ve put
forth in the past. And another thing we got to do, its got to
cut across racial lines. Forget about what color people are, what sex
they are and really work together in some kind of unity. Just be people, not while, black, female,
and all that kind of stuff, you know. I think everybody knows who they are, and
just work together as people and not have all this other rhetoric bullshit that keeps
people apart. Just be yourself, you know. Get out there and do something. I think its what its going to take. I really do. This thing was organized out of the OEO here. Its the second biggest employer in the state. I’m sorry, county. The City of Whitesburg(?) right now school
system is a bigger employer than ( Apple?? ). That’s how bad the coal industry is this
year. We only employ 38 people. You can see how bad off the rest of the county
is. Real bad. Interviewer – Thanks. Buck – No big problem. Nothing happened. You didn’t ask me how many kids I have. I got six. (laughter) Five married one at home. Interviewer – Do they live ihn the area? Buck – Yeah. I live within – Come and eat dinner with me. No, they all live within about 4 or 5 miles. Its pretty neat all around. We got one teenager at home, a 15 year old
boy. Interviewer – So you can see your grandchildren
– Buck – Got 7 of ’em. Interviewer – Got more time to spend with
them. Buck – No, I really stay busy. I really do. I do get to see more of ’em, but you know,
never as much as you want to. Yeah, we work 14 and 16 hours a day here. But, you know, if I really go home and see
’em for an hour I can always do that too. Interviewer – It seems like the radio show
that you’re doing – has the potential of doing some of the things we’ve been talking about. Buck – We believe that too. I believe that. I thought of this thing about a year ago,
and the first one we’d done. We have people who underwrite us. We had this one lumber company in Greenwood(?) Virginia which is in Dickinson County. The oldest underwriter we had was the first
underwriter we had, (like retail station??). And all of a sudden it just dawned on me,
Id love to go to that old lumber store and do a live broadcast, just go there, you know. And so I called over, said Sure. Anytime you want to do it just come on over. And so we feel were going to have four or
five people show up and talk to ’em you know. Have a little radio show and that’d be it. We went over there and there was about 60
people showed up. With banjos, and they had fiddles and ( ) and
we just had the worst time there was between the shelves, you know, linoleum and paint,
nails. People were dancing in those spaces and all
kinds of story telling and all that shit. I said, God damn, this is fun, let’s do this
again. We got to do it a more organized manner, you
know. That’s great. And from that, like I say, I’m really experimenting
just to see how it can go and – it takes quite a bit of work. It really does. And then usually we have to take somebodys
program away from them, all kinds of little nit-picking shit, you know. But we will get more into it, and hopefully
get more and more into especially environmental issues and the economic issues later on. But right now, we’re just kind of feeling
our way through it, learning how to do it technically and all that, just the logistics
of the thing takes a lot of work. Interviewer – Sounds like a good forum. Buck – Yeah. I’m real excited about it. In fact, we just had one two weeks ago and
I got another one scheduled for the 20th of next month. I’m going to take a little time off in the
middle of the month and then coming back. I hope to do one around this thing over in
Harlan County around where they dumped all this toxic waste and dumped soil in the water
systems when that company moved out over there. Hope to do one there in November. I’m working on that right now. That issue, you know theres a group of people
fighting over the toxic waste dump over here, and all that kind of stuff. And we got to do the senior citizens stuff
too, I think. That’s important too. They got problems.

8 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *