Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: Biography
Series 13: Education
ALICE COBB STORIES Taking Moving Pictures Down Greasy, Oct 30, 1935
TAGS: Alice Cobb Stories Taking Moving Pictures Down Greasy, Oct 30, 1935; Alice Cobb; Harlan County, KY; Greasy creek; Pine Mountain Settlement School; settlement schools; Southern Appalachians; education; Granny Creech; Bill McQueen; Merle Easton; pawpaws; Little Laurel, KY; sledges; Johnny Day; George Metcalf; Felix Turner; Ted Patterson; Myrtle Begley; Herman Smith; Big Laurel, KY; Maude Baker; Squire Patterson; Ran Boggs; Abner Boggs; possum hunting; Chester Begley; Everett Wilson; Martha Spradlin; split hickory baskets; Ben Lewis; Stacy Ellen Boggs; Jim Blevins; Priscilla “Cilly” Boggs; Nancy Boggs; Halloween; Edith Cold; Georgia Thomas; Frank Turner; Sam Winfrey; Aunt Jude Turner; Tom Hall;
**NOTE: There is little information regarding this moving picture expedition, but it is most likely an account of Pine Mountain Settlement School staff going to the local community to capture brief moving pictures of life in the local community that would then be edited for publicity purposes. Just who was making the film is unclear. Most likely the filming was by Arthur Dodd, who was often called upon to produce photographic work for the School. He arrived at the school in 1932 and over the years became a masterful photographer. A short film that includes images on basket-making may identify this particular 1935 film expedition:
“From Every Mountain Side – Pieces – Spinning, Basket Making” (before 1939)
16 mm mixed dp “B” B/W EK reversal original & dp B/W EK “B” positive print. Contained in 16 mm 7″ Ek 400′ silver metal can w/camphor slot. Silent film. B/W original cam film date coded plus/circle; 1934, 1954, 1974. EK positive intertitles date coded circle; 1916, 1936, 1956, 1976. Later camera original date coded plis/sq 1935, 1956, 1976. Aperture signature on film shows shot with Cine Kodak Model – 1.9. Some glue splices, burn marks occasionally and torn perforations need fixing. Much ground in dirt. Suffers from vinegar syndrome. [date examined 2007-12-03]
TRANSCRIPTION: ALICE COBB STORIES Taking Moving Pictures Down Greasy, Oct 30, 1935
This was one of those breathless fall days that you dream about — everything so still you could hear the sun shining, and the rays filtering through the brown leaves were almost eery. We drove along slowly and the crackling of the leaves under the car wheels seemed to be the only real sound until we stopped, and then you could hear Greasy Creek trickling very quietly along. Greasy is almost dry now, and there’s no hint of the rushing torrent last spring that washed out all the bridges and trestles between here and Big Laurel.
For a while we turned curves and rode along between forests on either side, pawpaw and rhododendron thickets, without seeing a soul — and then turning a sudden curve we came upon Bill McQueen pulling a load of corn, in pokes, on a sledge hitched to his mule. Bill lives halfway to the head of Little Laurel, in the most picturesque little cabin, built on four poles, close to the creekbed and above it. Merle Easton and I stopped there on our visiting tour last spring. Bill brings eggs to the school to sell, and is rather a nice looking young man — probably not as old as I am, although he looks about thirty-five and has a flock of children.
It was rather hard to take the picture we wanted of the sledge, because Bill was so anxious to be in the center of the picture that he insisted on standing in front of the sledge. But we finally succeeded and then drove on up the road.
Around another bend Granny Creech appeared, walking at a trot down the old railroad tracks. You would love to have seen her this morning quite dressed up, in a dark blue serge coat she told me was a hand-me-down from Mrs. [Ethel de Long] Zande. She was on her way to town — Harlan. Granny is seventy years old, but she still walks across Pine Mountain when she goes to “Harlan-Town.” We all stopped and talked for a minute and then two more neighbors came down the track. The one man I didn’t know — he looked sort of ornery — but the other was Tom Hall, the man who they told me “kilt his own brother in cold blood” and if ever I saw a man who looked as if he could do just that it was this one. I used to feel like shrinking down under my desk when he came into my office. He has red hair that is never cut, and that morning it was hanging down in a shock under his cap. He slouched along, looked at the ground and didn’t speak.
A few hundred feet farther (motor traveling is as slow as walking in most places) we stopped to let Johnny Day go past us with his herd of little calves and his little girl. He hailed us merrily, and we commented on and took a picture of his fine calves which he was taking to pasture. The wild-eyed little girl wore a single garment and was barefoot,…
…but [was] very happy with a lolly pop. She climbed up on the car at once and smiled shyly at me. Johnny was in a good humor. You could scarcely have thought he “waylaid a man oncet and kilt him” — he looked so pleasant. They have so many children in that family that, when you see them clustered like flies around the house, you wonder how they can all crowd in there at the same time.
Our next stop was to lend a helping hand to three of the Big Laurel boys whose little old model T had been stranded in the middle of the road. George Metcalf came over to “borry a pair o’ pliers” and after a good deal of tinkering and talking and finally several hands lifting and pushing, the old bus chugged down past us, while we hung perilously over the side of the creek to make room for them. The other two boys were Felix Turner and Ted Patterson. Felix is a social leader down the creek — he runs sets with a world of grace and flourish and picks a guitar, singing these old mountain songs with a nasal twang and in a minor key with a touch of pathos. Ted Patterson is the father of Myrtle Begley‘s child. Myrtle had her baby in the one-room house of her parents, with all the family, including the younger children, the dogs and cats, some chickens and two or three neighbors as well as the midwife, looking on, shaking their heads and talking about worldly sin while she suffered and screamed. Ted left the community as the custom is until the current talk had died away and now he is back in good and regular standing and courting the school teacher. Myrtle and the baby are accepted too and all is as usual except there’s one more to love and spoil and make a fuss over.
I so often wonder if these people here haven’t found the right way after all. They whisper and talk, of course, because God created human beings whispering and talking — but they live and let live, and not only that — they love and let love, sort of accepting what comes. It’s somehow right.
The drive down the creek continued! Next, we met the logging truck from Alec’s Branch with half the Big Laurel male population hanging on all corners. Herman Smith, who tried Pine Mountain three times and just couldn’t stick [to] it, and Maude Baker, and many more.
By this time we had reached the place where Little Laurel Creek flows into Greasy. You have to ford that, and I have seen the times we waded almost to our waists and then dried off, or froze into icicles, according to the season. But this time there was just a tiny little stream, hardly enough to call a creek, and we jolted and jumped over the rocks of the bed to the other side, where Squire Patterson and…
Ran Boggs were sitting on a pile of rocks talking. They had evidently been there all morning. The tin lunch bucket and a bottle of something hung on a fence near them. Ran is Abner‘s eldest son and handsome. He married a schoolteacher from Illinois some time ago, and the two live in a one-room log house with chinks instead of windows. And Katherine drove to the mountains in her own car — a Chevroelet [sic] I believe. They seem awfully happy.
We passed Begley’s house next, the second in the Little Laurel settlement, just across the road from Granny Creech’s cottage. Of course, I’ve told you about the Begleys. Yesterday evening just after dark, when I was running over to the schoolhouse from Boys House I almost bumped into two hurrying tall dark slinky figures, that came slipping out from the shrubbery around the stone fountain. I jumped back and noted that each one had a rifle. Then there was a cheery “Howdy, Miss Cobbs! Let’s go possum hunting!” That was Chester –and there are a lot of tales I could tell about Chester. Everett Wilson and I did go possum hunting with him last Christmas, and what a time that was.
Well, so here came two of the little Begley girls down the road from the woods back of the cane patch, each one carrying a load of sticks wider and three times as long as she was.
By this time we had reached Ben Lewis‘s place, where we left the car and started tramping up the steep trail to Martha Spradlin‘s place to take some movies of Martha, making baskets, and the paling fence that she put up herself. She told us she “done all the nailing because Jim were nearly blind and warn’t no good for nothing any more!” and of the little girl that was “nigh a wild thing.”
We scrambled back down the trail, and started home, stopping to take a movie of the mailman with the saddle pockets full of mail — riding his horse, of course. And then we stopped again to pick up Stacy Ellen Boggs and Jim Blevins, and Stacey’s daughter Priscilla (known as Cilly) who were all walking down to the Pine Mountain School to see Nancy, Stacey Ellen’s youngest who has just started to school in the seventh grade. Nancy is the one who used to sing ballads to me. She did have long yellow braids — but no longer. The first thing the girls at Far House did to Nancy was to apply scissors, and a powder puff, and you’d be surprised how quickly Nancy had adapted herself to the twentieth century. I can’t say I like it too much, but it makes her happy.
So that was that.
Just a word about the Halloween party Saturday night. It was a gala affair of masks, pumpkins, ghost stories potato races, cider and doughnuts. It is always quite wonderful to see how cleverly the children dress themselves up and how beautiful, or horrible, or funny, as the case may be, they manage to look. We had everybody from Peter Pumpkin Eater with his wife in an enormous crepe paper pumpkin shell, to Daniel Boone. Miss Edith Cold and I dressed as two ghosts, with sheets, and instead of wearing masks we smeared flour and water paste on our faces It hardened in warts and icicles and funny bumps so we looked perfectly ghastly. I heard one of the boys say “Gosh, them’s the ugliest two women I ever did see — they’d scare a real ghost to death!” We got the prize for being the two ugliest, and Georgia Thomas said there must be some truth in the old adage about taking one’s strong points and making the most of them.!
Sorry I haven’t the time to tell you about the party at Frank Turner‘s down Greasy. We rode through about a mile of creek bed, and nearly got stalled in several places on the way. Walking is better, I guess. They had a banjo and a guitar besides Sam Winfrey‘s fiddle, and it was good old mountain music all right. I never danced to such fetching tunes — the music seemed to carry us right through the figures. It was a lot of trot I think, no light except one dim oil lamp on the mantle — a big crowd of people, hot and perspiring, so the smell was pretty bad, sweaty and tobacco-y until you got used to it. Aunt Jude Turner was there, white-haired and sweet and motherly, sitting on the side, and smiling at everyone. But it would take a book to describe it all.
The last bell is ringing and I must run. Am working hard at my literature class — reading American Literature in gulps and swallows trying to keep ahead of the class. Some of them know more about Cooper’s books than I do so it makes me feel I ought to be the student. But we have good times and interesting discussions and I’m learning.
ALICE COBB Biography