RUTH SMITH CREECH

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 9: Staff/Personnel

RUTH SMITH CREECH

Ruth Smith Creech was English Teacher and Office Worker, March 1946 – May 1947;
Substitute Teacher (Elementary Grades) and Volunteer Librarian 1955 – 1957


BIOGRAPHY: Ruth Smith Creech

When Ruth Smith joined a work camp friend on a day’s outing of sightseeing in the Kentucky mountains, little did she know where her adventure would lead her. The American Friends Service Committee often recruited students from Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA), a Quaker college, for its summer work camps. Ruth attended one in Hoskinston, KY. This was at the end of World War II and little transportation was available in the summer of 1945, which was why the two resorted to hitchhiking. Late in the day they found themselves at the Pine Mountain Settlement School’s gate. 

The young women spent the night with school workers Margaret and Dorothy Nace. The next morning Ruth had a talk with the School’s director, H. R.S. Benjamin, and was offered a “jack of all trades” job after graduation. Then the travelers left with John Lewis, the US mail carrier, who left them at Bledsoe, KY, to find a ride back to camp. There had been no way to contact the camp so their safe return was a great relief to the directors.

Ruth Smith Creech

Staff meeting in Director Benjamin’s house (Zande House), late 1940s. (left to right) Gladys Hill, Fern Hayes, Ruth Smith, Margaret Motter, Mr. Benjamin, Mrs. Benjamin. [X_100_workers_2593_mod.jpg]

After Ruth’s graduation from Swarthmore in March of 1946 she boarded the passenger train to Bristol, TN, then a bus to the Laden Trail and from there to the School for her promised employment. She served that spring and the following school year as an office worker and teacher of English.

Ruth then became a District Director for the Girl Scouts of Delaware County (suburban Philadelphia, PA). Subsequently, she decided to return to the mountains and became a staff member at the Southern Presbyterian mission school, Stuart Robinson, at Blackey, KY. There she taught English and psychology and was librarian and assistant house mother.

For two summers Ruth worked on a Master’s Degree in Library Science at Columbia University in New York City. Years later that degree was completed at Ball State University (Muncie, IN).

Ruth then returned to Kentucky to marry James Charles Creech in Monticello on September 1, 1950, at the home of Charles’ sister Elsie whose husband Malcolm Leach, a Church of Christ pastor, officiated. They had two sons, James Charles (1954) and Thomas William (1956).

Charles was the grandson of William Creech and the son of Henry C. and Delia Creech. He was born in the Henry Creech home one mile north of the School on Isaac’s Creek. He attended school at Pine Mountain, Berea (KY) Foundation and Morehead (KY) College where he studied chemistry. During World War II he served in the US Army and spent several years in England. A photograph and mention of his service were included in the 1944 Pine Mountain Family Album.

Upon his honorable discharge Charles returned to Pine Mountain, farmed with his father, and was head of the School maintenance staff and a school bus driver.

For one year following their marriage the couple lived in Jubilee House on the School campus. It was in this time period that Ruth substituted for a semester in the campus elementary school.

Charles had been given by his parents a farm of about 200 acres just south of the School and he and Ruth decided to build a house and live there. This farm (known as the Nolen Farm) was adjacent to the School on its western side and not far from the center of the School’s campus.

What is now known as the Creech Cottage was built with lumber harvested from the farm and sawed at the mill of Charles’ Uncle Calvin (Delia Creech’s brother Calvin Blanton). Ruth remembers that the foundation stones were recycled from house ruins above the county road going through the farm. Charles, his dad Henry, his cousin Harrison Cornett, his nephew Bill Leach, and Ruth did most of the construction. Others helped as they could and a roof-raising involved many community men.

While in residence the Creeches were contributors to the life of the School. Ruth volunteered in the school library and substitute taught. Charles and Bill Hayes often worked together. They also participated in the small country dance group that met at the School. One of their fun activities was the Creech Lady Slipper Tea. There was a large patch of pink lady slippers next to the house and the School staff was invited out to enjoy them.

In 1952 Charles and his cousin Kermit Creech had a contract to clear electric power lines for the Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC).

When the Creeches left the area to seek more gainful employment in the mid-1950s the house was rented to Edna and Jess Patterson, local residents, who were employed by the Pine Mountain Settlement School. The School bought the farm and the house and the proceeds helped Ruth and Charles get established in Cincinnati, OH. Read more about the Creech Cottage here.

From Cincinnati Charles and Ruth moved to New Castle, IN, where Charles worked for New Castle Products (later Modernfold) as a plastics chemist and Ruth as a high school librarian. When both were retired they began spending winters in Casa, Grande, AZ.

Charles died in 2002 after fifty-one years of marriage and Ruth is now living in Clarkston, MI, with her younger son.

An excellent writer, Ruth, like many of the staff at the School, collected stories and memories of the School and the region. The Pine Mountain Collections greatly appreciates Ruth’s generous sharing of her time and her memories for the biography and memoir excerpts on this page.

Transcribed below are excerpts from her memoir that were submitted to the Pine Mountain School Archives via email in 2008.


NARRATIVE by Ruth Smith Creech

PINE MOUNTAIN

I was asked to write about some of the ways in which life at Pine Mountain was different from the life I had known.

It was a rural life with lots of comment and dependence on seasons, weather, and crops. Arriving at the School in March 1946, straight from my Swarthmore graduation, I was immediately to learn of the winters. Each cool snap was named for whatever was in bloom at the time – blackberry, dogwood, serviceberry, etc. Finally came “linen britches winter” which was traditionally the time you exchanged the winter underwear you had been sewn into in the fall for the jeans of summer. I have no personal knowledge that such a winter existed but [my husband] Charles always lists it with the others.

What was different about the community? This was immediately post-war and walking was the basic method of transportation. This meant not only Isaacs Creek and down Greasy Creek but also Line Fork, seven miles away where the School had a cabin and an outreach program. Some of the male staff had an ancient Chevy dubbed the PMWC (Pine Mountain Workers Car) and there was a truck used mostly to bring in supplies for the School. John Lewis, the mail carrier, also provided transportation. Anyone who wished, could ride in or out on the mail truck.

Dr. Elizabeth Henderson had a jeep for her medical home calls. As she commented, she forded some creeks the long way (used them as roads). She often took one of us along for company and to be a witness if needed. [In a 2015 interview with Ruth, she recalls accompanying Dr. Henderson on one of these visits and described Dr. Henderson as a “marvelous person. Patients liked her very much and felt comfortable with her. She had her first baby at Pine Mountain, named Alexander and nicknamed “Sandy'”.]

One of my first jobs was to decorate the School May Pole [May Day]. I had never even seen a May Pole much less decorated one. The only floral material available was blackberry bloom but the job got done. Why was a May Pole needed? It was a school tradition to celebrate May Day with dancing including Morris and pipe dances.

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May Day on the Dancing Green at Pine Mountain Settlement School, late 1940s. Birdena Bishop Album. [bishop_04_001.jpg]

This was the first of many traditions I was introduced to. Not too long after May Day came Dogwood breakfast [Dogwood Breakfast]. The staff was served breakfast by the seniors at Zande House under the beautiful dogwoods.

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Dogwood Breakfast on the lawn at Zande House, mid-1940s. Birdina Bishop Album. [bishop_03_001.jpg]

Mountain Day. View from the top of Putney Fire Tower on the crest of Pine Mountain, looking toward Pine Mountain Settlement School [?]. c. 1947. Birdena Bishop Album. [bishop_06_001.jpg]

Mountain Day. View from the top of Putney Fire Tower on the crest of Pine Mountain, looking toward PMSS [?], c. 1947. Birdena Bishop Album. [bishop_06_001.jpg]

My family thought I was in the middle of nowhere. That’s hard to fight when the nearest town is eighteen miles away and over a mountain. However, the School’s founders and early workers (as staff were called) established a great many traditions with the intent of introducing the students to new experiences as well as having fun. Many of these experiences were as new to me as they were to the students.

In the fall the students checked out the director’s footwear at breakfast each day. When he appeared in hiking boots they knew Mountain Day had arrived. The whole school took off on an all day hike followed by a dancing party in the evening.

Fall also brought Fair Day when the School and community joined forces to have fun and win blue ribbons on produce and canned goods.

Christmas time was very special with a different activity planned for each night. One night the smallest boy in the School was carried in atop the Yule log. Other nights the greens were hung, a mummers’ play produced, and the stately minuet danced. The celebration climaxed with the nativity play in the Chapel.

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Nativity Play, 1940s. Pine Mountain Settlement School Chapel. Joe Bramlett Album. [bram_41.jpg]

Abbie Winnie Christensen schooled us all in dancing. Special classes were held in the evening to teach the freshmen Danish and English country dancing. Unlike square dancing these dances were not “called”. You had to learn what the music told you to do. Each Saturday night there was a dancing party and everyone loved going. The round tables in the dining room had been designed to open into benches and they and every chair in the room were filled.

Miss Christensen was the epitome of a New England spinster except she was from Beaufort, SC. She was ramrod straight, [wore her hair] in a braided coronet, and [was] exacting in her expectations and demands. She taught mechanical drawing, art, and weaving, as well as the dancing and was an artist herself. (After we left Pine Mountain we bought a number of her paintings. Although they were New England scenes they could just as well have been Pine Mountain. She wrote us that outside of her own collection we had the largest collection of her paintings – and we have enjoyed them.) [In a 2015 interview, Ruth remembered Miss Christensen as a “remarkable person”. As of 2015, Ruth still has four of the paintings. She has given one to her Pine Mountain friend, Milly Mahoney, as well as others to her sons and friends.]

I had read about the language differences to be found in the mountains. Many of these were rooted in old English: An “e” was frequently added before “s” to make words easier to say: i.e., post became postes (rhymes with toasties). Other words just had different meanings. Evening was my afternoon, slippers were low-cut shoes (as opposed to boots). Often local people, instead of saying goodbye after a casual visit, would say “better stay the night”. Another idiom which comes to mind is “I hope how soon” as in “I hope how soon Christmas comes”. Of course, ‘reckon’ and ‘howdy’ were every day expressions.

The mountain area was known for its swinging bridges. These were simple suspension bridges rigged over the creeks and enabled people to build homes on the far side without waiting for roads and government bridges. The bridges [would] swing with the rhythm of walking and could be quite scary to the uninitiated. Mischief makers could also influence the sway of the bridge. Charles’ Aunt Nance Lewis lived on the other side of the Poor Fork of the Cumberland River and the only way you could reach her home was over a rather long swinging bridge. Just before you stepped on this quivering bridge was a sign, “At the end of the road meet God”. Years later Frank Fiske (brother-in-law) and I were talking family memories and this sign was one common memory. Interestingly enough Charles and Oma didn’t recall it. It was just us “fotched-on” people who noticed the sign.

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Swinging Bridge at Big Laurel, 1920s. Ethel Norton Album. [norton_094.jpg]

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Black Sol Day and his gun. c. 1940s. Joe Bramlett Album. Photograph by Arthur Dodd. [bram_-10.jpg]

Another difference in life style for me was the prevalence of guns. Guns were needed – to kill animals at butchering time and for protection against copperheads, rattlers and rabid animals. Of course, they were also used for sport hunting.


NARRATIVE by Ruth Smith Creech

STEVE HAYES AND HIS ADVENTURES

Steve Hayes was the son of Bill and Fern Hayes. Bill and Fern have been friends of Charles’ since Pine Mountain boarding school days. When we lived at Jubilee the Hayes were at Practice House next door. Both buildings were at the top of the hill across the road from the old hospital and barn.

Steve was a favorite of Charles’. If Charles found baby rabbits when he was plowing they found their way to Steve. The story about the crows’ nest is pretty much in Charles’ words.

Anyway, there was a neighbor’s son, a friend, Steve, and he located where the crows were nesting. To get to the crows’ nest you had to climb this little pine tree so Steve proceeded to take some long, heavy spikes and drive them through his favorite, only, combat boots. When I found this out I said, “Steve, I’ll use the tree climbers and climb up there myself”. So I climbed up there and I think there were three baby crows in this nest. I very carefully put them in the orange mesh sack and very carefully brought them back down and turned them over to Steve.

Well, of the three baby crows only one survived. Its name was Blackie the Crow. Anyway, Blackie the Crow was a wonderful addition to the company around. The visiting nurse, Grace Rood, would yell at Steve’s mother, “Fern, Fern, call that crow in. I’m coming in,” because she was afraid the crow was going to bite her. She was deathly afraid.

Anyway, they had a great life with that crow because people really enjoyed hearing the darn thing because it began to learn to speak relatively clearly. You know it could call Steve’s name, I think Bill’s name, maybe Fern’s. A one-syllable name, he could come out with it.

Several springs Steve tapped the sugar maples around Practice House and Jubilee and made syrup.

Ruth Creech


Ruth was born in Binghamton, NY, on March 5, 1925, joining an older brother, Warren B. Smith, Jr. Her parents were Mary Isabel (Clark) Smith and Warren B. Smith, an insurance manager with New York Life Insurance Company. When Ruth was three years of age, the family relocated to Buffalo, NY, where Ruth attended elementary and high school.

Always a strong supporter of the School, Ruth stayed in touch with many of the staff and on every opportunity she and Charles returned to the School to volunteer their service, attend Homecoming, or to visit nearby relatives. The couple served as members of the PMSS Advisory Council for several years, Charles from the start of the Council and a few years later, Ruth at the invitation of Paul Hayes. When Charles died in 2002, Ruth continued her pilgrimage to see Pine Mountain friends and she continues to keep up a lively correspondence with friends she knew at the School.


Title

Ruth Smith Creech

Alt. Title

Ruth Smith ; Ruth Creech ; Mrs. James Charles Creech ;

Identifier

https://pinemountainsettlement.net/?page_id=18156

Creator

Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Ruth Smith Creech ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; American Friends Service Committee ; Swarthmore College ; Quaker colleges, summer work camps ; World War II ; transportation ; Margaret and Dorothy Nace ; H.R.S. Benjamin ; John Lewis ; US mail carriers ; passenger trains ; buses ; Laden Train ; office workers ; teachers ; Girl Scouts of Delaware County ; Southern Presbyterian mission schools ; Stuart Robinson ; librarians ; housemothers ; Columbia University ; Ball State University ; James Charles Creech ; Elsie and Malcolm Leach ; Church of Christ ; James Charles Creech, Jr ; Thomas William Creech ; William Creech ; Henry C. and Delia Creech ; Morehead College ; US Army ; school maintenance staff ; school bus drivers ; Jubilee House ; elementary school ; Berea Foundation ; chemists ; Nolen Farm ; Harrison Cornett ; Bill Leach ; roof raisings ; substitute teachers ; country dance ; Creech Lady Slipper Tea ; pink lady slippers ; Kermit Creech ; electric power lines ; Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC) ; Edna and Jess Patterson ; New Castle Products (Modernfold) ; Warren B. Smith, Jr. ; Mary Isabel (Clark) Smith ; Warren B. Smith ; New York Life Insurance Company ; narratives ; rural life ; seasons ; Isaacs Creek ; Greasy Creek ; Line Fork ; Dr. Elizabeth Henderson ; traditions ; May Day ; may poles ; Morris dancing ; pipe dancing ; Dogwood breakfasts ; Zande House ; Mountain Day ; Fair Day ; Christmas ; Yule logs ; mummers’ plays ; minuet dancing ; nativity plays ; Chapel ; Abbie Winnie Christensen ; country dancing ; dancing parties ; dining tables ; artists ; paintings ; mountain language ; swinging bridges ; Nance Lewis ; Frank Fiske ; guns ; Steve Hayes ; Bill and Fern Hayes ; Practice House ; Grace Rood ; sugar maple syrup ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ; Swarthmore, PA ; Hoskinston, KY ; Bledsoe, KY ; Bristol, TN ; Philadelphia, PA ; Blackey, KY ; New York, NY ; Muncie, IN ; Monticello, KY ; Morehead, KY ; England ; Cincinnati, OH ; New Castle, IN ; Clarkston, MI ; Binghamton, NY ; Buffalo, NY ; Delaware County, PA ;

Subject LCSH

Creech, Ruth Smith, — b. 1925 March 5.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Harlan County (Ky.) — History.
Education — Kentucky — Harlan County.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.

Date

2015-01-26

Publisher

Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Contributor

n/a

Type

Collections ; text ; image ;

Format

Original and copies of documents and correspondence in file folders in filing cabinet.

Source

Series 09: Staff/Personnel

Language

English

Relation

Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 9: Staff/Personnel ; Series 21A: Personal Narratives (Written) ;

Coverage Temporal

1925 – 2015

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan County, KY ;Swarthmore, PA ; Hoskinston, KY ; Bledsoe, KY ; Bristol, TN ; Philadelphia, PA ; Blackey, KY ; New York, NY ; Muncie, IN ; Monticello, KY ; Morehead, KY ; England ; Cincinnati, OH ; New Castle, IN ; Clarkston, MI ; Binghamton, NY ; Buffalo, NY ; Delaware County, PA ;

Rights

Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Donor

n/a

Description

Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers of Ruth Smith Creech ; clippings, photographs, books by or about Ruth Smith Creech ;

Acquisition

n/d

Citation

“[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2015-01-26 aae ; 2015-03-02 aae ; 2015-03-15 aae ; 2016-03-08 aae ; 2017-03-21 aae ;

Bibliography

Sources

1910s – 1950s Staff Card File. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

Mary Rogers Staff List. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Archival material.

Interview with Fern Hayes and Helen Hayes Wykle. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY.

Interview with Ruth Smith Creech in Goodyear, Arizona, 2015 February 25. Archival material.

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