Tag Archives: Katherine Pettit

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV FARMING THE LAND – EARLY YEARS 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV
FARMING THE LAND – EARLY YEARS 1913-1930

TAGS: Katherine Pettit ; Ethel de Long ; Pine Mountain Settlement School farm ; farming ; sustainable agriculture ; William Creech ; Mary Rockwell Hook ; Evelyn K. Wells ; Margaret McCutchen ; creek farmers ; farmers ; Greasy Creek ; Isaac’s Creek ; soil analysis ; livestock ; Ayrshire cows ; poultry ; grazing ; farm managers ; Marguerite Butler ; Farmer’s Cooperative ; University of Kentucky ; Kentucky State University ; Fitzhugh Lane ; Horace DMcSwain ; Mr. Baugh ; Gertrude Lansing ; Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Doughtery ; Mr. Morrison ; Boone Callahan ; Harriet Bradner ; Fannie Gilbert ; William Browning ; Louise Will Browning ; Peder Moeller ; Oscar Kneller ; silo ; Darwin D. Martin ; Brit Wilder ; irrigation ;

CLEARING THE LAND

Planning for Pine Mountain was very deliberate and where land was involved, Katherine Pettit. co-founder of the School, was a keen observer and a diligent doer.  Of the two co-founders, Pettit and Ethel de Long, it was Pettit who assumed the lead responsibility for the land issues of the School. Under Pettit’s direction, the land was to support the school, but it was also to be a driving force in the school’s programs. In her vision the land would be a source for the agricultural, educational, physical, and emotional needs of the school.  The forests, gardens, planting fields, grazing fields, flower beds,  —- all received careful consideration under her watchful eye.  There is no doubt that the vision for the school’s physical site was always in Katherine Pettit’s mind’s eye but she also called on her excellent on-site help, particularly Uncle William Creech. If she didn’t find her answers in those close-by staff or in the community folk, she did not hesitate to seek outside consultation.

1913 opened with the first visit to the campus of one of the most important of those farm consultants, Miss Mary Rockwell, an architect from Kansas City,  Together, Pettit,  Ethel de Long, and Hook developed a plan for growth that centered on the topography of the land and the plan was followed, according to Evelyn Wells, (the first chronicler of the school’s history), very closely.  Every effort was made to build around the productivity of the land; to use what the land provided and what the topography suggested. Forest lumber, stone from the fields, native plants and flowers, local human and animal labor, native seeds for garden crops and other native resources were called into use.  All were considered important to the aesthetics and to the growth of the school and its environs.  The remote location demanded that the planners seek local solutions to many of their needs and that they model the best solutions if they were to be both practical and educational in their mission. But, this local focus did not mean the outside world was excluded. It was, in fact, tapped for all it could contribute.

While Mary Rockwell Hook was helping to develop a plan for the land and how the buildings would interact with the landscape, several other consultants were also called upon for direct assistance with farming. James Adoniram Burgess, who was the Superintendent of Construction of buildings, a woodworker and vocational instructor at Berea College,  starting in 1901, was well informed about construction and was heavily consulted by Pettit.  Pettit also consulted with the  Agricultural Department of State University (University of Kentucky), specifically J.H. Arnold, who had written extensively on factors necessary for a successful farm.  While Arnold’s focus was on the Blue Grass area of the state he had some sound recommendations for the business side of agriculture. In 1917 he co-wrote with W.D. NIcholls, USDA Bulletin No. 210 “Important Factors for Successful Farming in the Blue Grass Region of Kentucky.”  This unique partnering of Burgess and Arnold was evidently very productive.  Ethel de Long notes in her May 1913 Letter to Friends, that the consultants

… were here last week … to give us their advice on the best use of our land and the best disposal of the buildings we hope to have in the course of time. 

The progressive ideas of the early founders was not missed on visitors to the School.  Margaret McCutchen, a visitor to the School in 1914 and writes:

“The first intimation I had of the School was the foot-log over Greasy, carefully flattened on top by well-placed stepping stones.  Here I met with my second surprise, (the first was the beauty of the place) that about this school, only an infant in the wilderness, everything was so ship-shape.  Good fences, substantial gates, roads, hitching posts, mounting blocks, the straight furrows of the ploughed fields and even rows of garden patches, wood-boxes on the porches, coat pegs by the doors, and the picturesque stone tool-house to protect the tools and farm implements — all these spell to me in large letters one of the chief articles in the constitution of the school, ORDER.”

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View of the school grounds c. 1913-14. Old Log sits at what is now the entrance to the school. The foot-bridge Miss McCutcheon traversed is just opposite the cabin and crosses Isaac’s Creek where it becomes Greasy Creek, the headwaters of the great Kentucky River.

The school’s early years required some clearing of forested land and the re-preparation of older fields cleared by the earliest settlers.  In the above view of one corner of the school campus, the land is just being prepared for farming.  Efforts to straighten Isaac’s Creek [also known as Isaac’s Run] and to construct a bridge can be seen.  Old Log cabin, the first permanent dwelling on  the school grounds is seen to the left in the photograph.  Moved to the site for early housing of staff, the structure still welcomes all who visit the school.  Today it is the site of the school’s gift shop.]

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A very early view of the Pine Mountain Settlement. The distant house is Old Log with the “Indian Cliff” behind. The field in the foreground is in front of what is now the Chapel.

CREEK FARMERS

A view down the long Pine Mountain valley in the first decade of the twentieth-century would have revealed the steep hillside farming often practiced in the Pine Mountain valley and the surrounding valleys.  In the narrow valleys such as that running beneath the long Pine Mountain spine, the community farmers used as much of their land as they were able to physically cultivate. Often the farms stretched far up the mountainside in a series of random terraces, often following natural contours of the land. The school claims to have introduced terracing but it was also introduced by livestock continually navigating the steep hillsides and by the constant planting and cultivating of corn rows that horizontally followed the contours of the hills.  Each year the farmers often advanced up the mountain in search of  rich soil as their crops depleted the soil. It was arduous work.

005a P. Roettinger Album. "Country [?] Looking from Uncle John's toward the School."

005a P. Roettinger Album. “Country [?] Looking from Uncle John’s toward the School.”

While much farming in the Pine Mountain valley was on the sides of the mountain, the practice of farming in the area was often called “creek farming” and the farmers as “creek farmers.” The narrow strip of bottom land in the eastern Kentucky valleys led to this description in the 1960’s of those who farmed the region. The term was broadened to include the entire family and meant those families who lived only a stone’s throw from the streams of the region. In the small hollow that led into the valley, this geography was often accurate, but the broad slopes of the valley often meant that the farm was much more than a “stone’s throw” from the creek.

Because the developing transportation system often shared the same meandering creek path or sometimes the creek bed itself, the land that could be farmed was further reduced and families headed for the hills.  This form of subsistence farming, a more common term than “creek farmers”, and the confined transportation corridors, led to the development in the valleys of a kind of continuous and uniformly distributed series of small “centers.”  The so-called “Mouth of Big Laurel” is one such nuclear community.  The Pine Mountain valley and most near-by valleys followed this pattern of development common to eastern Kentucky.

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View of the Big Laurel Community in the second decade of the 20th century. From the Kendall Bassett Album, pmss001_bas010.jpg.

GREASY CREEK

Greasy Creek, a large and stony stream that has its headwaters at the School where Isaac’s Creek flows into Shell Creek, is the largest stream in the immediate area of Pine Mountain.  It was supposedly named for the grease of a bear that was killed near the stream. The clear water in the early years supported a variety of aquatic life including abundant bass, brim, and other common stream fish. I was one of the favorite fishing streams in the area and an important source of food for many families. It also served as a water-way to float log rafts down river to mill during Spring-tide. Today, it is slowly recovering from mining intrusions over the years that have left sections of the stream severely polluted and with diminished aquatic life — with consequential degradation of the entire stream.

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The Big Laurel community on the headwaters of Greasy Creek soon became an important outpost for Pine Mountain Settlement School.  As the location for the first of a half-dozen outposts proposed by Katherine Pettit, Big Laurel Medical Settlement was situated on a hill overlooking Greasy Creek and the wide bottom-land created at the meeting of  Big Laurel Creek and Greasy Creek.

During the early years of the School and before, every piece of land was precious and was often cultivated to the top of the ridges.  This extensive cultivation may be clearly seen in the following photograph taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.  What appears as terracing is often the result of cattle and farm animals paths that horizontally negotiate the steep hill-sides.  Greasy Creek flows in the center of the photograph of this country of “Creek farmers.”

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FARM CONSULTANTS

Pettit realized that education would be needed to change local farming practices that were both labor intensive and not sustainable. Following the first consultation regarding the layout of the School and two years after the founding in 1913, Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long in 1915 again brought consultants from Kentucky State University [University of Kentucky] to the School to hold a “Farmer’s Institute.” It was open to the full community and brought participants from along the valley and hollows surrounding the school.

Marguerite Butler, an early worker at the school describes the Farmer’s Institute

Four splendid instructors from the Kentucky State University have been here for four days holding Farmers’ Institute. It is a splendid thing for this part of the country and you never saw such interest as the farmers showed. Last night one of the men said it was by far the best meeting he had ever had in Kentucky. Of course mothers, fathers and children came for miles around. Yesterday the school cooked dinner for all out in big black kettles in the open . The men killed a sheep Saturday for the great affair. The talks were splendid on the soil and care of it, proper kind of food and why, how to raise fruit trees and poultry, which are both easily but poorly done in the mountains. I enjoyed every single speech. Just about four yesterday afternoon we learned that there was a “meetin” down Greasy five miles. Of course we wanted to go, so in ten minutes one of the men and lady instructors, Peg, one of the older boys here and I started off. I bare back behind Miss Sweeny on her horse. We had wonderful fun and the ride at that time of evening was glorious. I stuck on, even when we galloped beautifully. One of the men invited us there for supper so he rode on ahead to prepare supper. They had made biscuit, stewed dumplin’s and chickens, sweet potatoes and all sorts of good things. These professors said it was one of the experiences of their life. We all walked down to meetin’ afterwards in the Little Log School. I succeeded in falling in the creek, so did Miss Sweeney, as we only had to cross one four times. You couldn’t possibly believe what a meetin’ is like unless you hear it with your own ears. I shall have much to tell you. After an exciting ride home over a black, rough road we got here at 10:15, no worse for the wear. [1914 Marguerite Butler Letters]

Miss Pettit’ s consultation and the broad sharing of the findings of the Institute gave not only the farm program at Pine Mountain its first leap forward. but jump-started the educational process for the local community.  Pettit believed that the farm was central to the success of the school and that it should be managed by progressive and trained farmers. Her plans were large and her enthusiasm was even greater when it came to farming at Pine Mountain. However, she found it difficult to match her vision with the succession of early school farmers whose early departure from this key position was almost as rapid as annual crop rotation,

Fitzhugh Lane, a young boy whom Pettit and de Long had brought with them from Hindman to help establish a garden and some subsistence farming, was the first farmer at Pine Mountain. He did not stay long and was never designated as “the farmer”.  He overlapped with the first designated farmer, Horace McSwain at the School He came in late 1913 but also quickly left in 1914.  McSwain was hired to also serve as the manager of the new saw-mill at Pine Mountain. The dual position was likely unmanageable as the rush to construct new buildings was cyclonic. The following note in a letter to the Board in 1913 describes the clearing of land and the multiple duties of many of the staff:

I wish you could know what important work has been done here through these last weeks. The coal bank has been made been made ready for the winter’s digging, according to the directions of Professor Easton and we are now making a road to it. We have had foot logs laid in many places over the Creek and have built a bridge that ought to last for two generations so that we may haul stone to the site of the school house. Miss Pettit has had charge of most important work In ditching the bottom lands. You will be interested to know why she had to give her time for this, instead of Mr. McSwain. He has had to be at the sawmill all the time, largely because he has not known what minute one of his hands would have to escape to the woods. You see this is not a conventional community and many of our best workers have indictments against them, for shooting, fighting, or even being mixed up in a murder case. Since this is the month when court convenes the men with indictments against them are all afraid the sheriffs may be after them….

Mr.[ ?] Baugh, whose full name has been lost to time, is listed as the designated farmer for the year of 1914. It is unclear whether he overlapped with McSwain or if his tenure as farmer was less than a year. He shows up on the staff listings simply as “Mr. Baugh”.   Harriet Bradner is listed for 1915 as a worker on the farm. Leon Deschamps, a Belgian émigré arrived in 1916, hired as the School’s Forester, farmer and teacher.  His tenure was to be the longest to date. He briefly left the School to serve in the Great War [WWI] but returned after a year and stayed until 1927.  During 1918 and 1919 another woman, Gertrude Lansing is listed as a farm worker, but was not the designated farmer. In 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Dougherty were hired to work on the farm and charged to pick up some of the responsibilities of Deschamps who was temporarily away.  Several staff who had other duties are also listed as farm workers during this time.  Edna Fawcett, for example worked as a teacher, a house mother, and on the farm from 1917 – 1919. Many other staff shared farm responsibilities from time to time.

FARM ASSETS AND LIABILITIES

By 1917 the assets and liabilities of the new school are listed as:

Assets:

The original 234 acres of land
125 acres recently given. (Mostly coal and timber)
A coal bank
A limestone cliff
A boundary of timber aggregating 600,000 ft.
A stone quarry
A maple sugar grove
Annual pledges to the amount of $1600.00
An unpolluted water supply
Three dwelling houses
One tool house
Two sanitary closets
Sawmill
Two mules
Two cows
One hog and two more promised
Chickens
Two collie pups

Liabilities:

$700.00 a month

FARMERS

 In 1920 Mr. William Browning came to the School as the farmer and stayed for seven years.  Later, in 1922-1924, Fannie Gilbert was assigned to work on the farm and assisted Browning. Until Browning, no farmer had lasted more than two years with the exception of Leon Deschamps, whose duties were spread among three positions (forester, farmer, teacher).   Miss Pettit’s agenda was a large one and the work to be completed was hard labor and long hours. Farming under Katherine Pettit also required considerable ingenuity and diplomacy in negotiating Pettit herself and the community skepticism of new farming practices. It is clear from the many staff letters that William Browning was a favorite with the women staff. He is described in many staff letters as quite attractive and charming, but someone who “needed to be taken care of.” One of the workers described Mr. Browning as a “buttonless man” who had difficulty keeping his wardrobe together.  It appears that many of the women at the school were eager to sew on buttons for the “buttonless man.”

Browning was also assisted by Leon Deschamps, a Belgian whose training as a forester allowed him to address both the silviculture and farming needs of the school. Browning and Deschamps overlapped from 1920 until 1927 when Deschamps left Pine Mountain.  Under the guidance of Browning and Deschamps, the farm had grown in productivity and, like the previous farm workers, these two farmers largely developed the land according to Miss Pettit’s plan. Deschamps, when he was left in charge of the farm largely followed the planning of Pettit and Browning but when he left in 1928 the direction of the farm went through a series of short-term farmers and some of Pettit practices and vision were set aside. A Mr. Morrison, of whom we know little, followed Deschamps and he was quickly followed by Mr. Boone [?] Callahan who became one of the legendary members of the staff and who was also well known as a wood craftsman. Boone Callahan, one of the many Callahan children brought to the School in the very early years and Brit Wilder were among the first Students to come to Pine Mountain.  In the 1943 special edition of Notes, “Our Mountain Family,”  the contributions of Callahan and Wilder are noted

“…  since the days when they [Callahan and Wilder] cut “pretties” for Miss Pettit with their knives, they have never been far away from the life of the school. Boone had special train-
ing in agriculture at Berea and at Bradley Polytechnic Institute, and has been in charge of the carpentry department for years. He lives with his family at Farm House.  Brit is the truck driver and superintendent of the mine. He is the grandson of Uncle William, is married to a former Pine Mountain student and has a lovely home close to the school.”

Pettit was well read on farming practice and she never ceased her consultation with available experts in the field. During the 1920’s Katherine Pettit had been observing the agricultural progress at John C. Campbell Folk School under their new Danish farmer, George Bidstrup. The Scandinavian farmer, who had been hired to bring Danish farming practice to the Brasstown, North Carolina folk school. Bidstrup was charged to provide model farming for the Brasstown community and had enjoyed considerable success in farming in the North Carolina mountains.  Marguerite Butler, a Pine Mountain Settlement School worker who had left Pine Mountain to study in Denmark and had subsequently been recruited to John C. Campbell Folk School by Dame Olive Campbell in 1922. She maintained a lively correspondence with Katherine Pettit following her departure from Pine Mountain and much conversation centered on farming and gardening. Butler married George Bidstrup shortly after she arrived at Brasstown and she was eager to share what she had learned from him about farming with Pettit. When Butler married Bidstrup many local Brasstown practices were passed directly along to the Kentucky school. Intrigued by the Brasstown experiments in farming methods, Pettit went looking for her own Danish farmer and found Peder Moler. Inspired by what she saw at John C. Campbell, Pettit set about to bring the Danish farmer to Pine Mountain where he could introduce Danish agricultural methods to the subsistence farmers of the Pine Mountain valley. Through Marguerite and her new husband, George Bidstrup, many Danish practices entered the Pine Mountain Settlement School farm program and many Pine Mountain practices were adopted by the community of the John C. Campbell Folk School.

While Pettit eagerly set about bringing the Danish farmer, Peder Moler, to the School, the immigration quotas of the late 1920’s slowed down the immigration process.  When the Danish farmer finally arrived at Pine Mountain in 1930, Katherine Pettit had just (late 1930) departed  the School as Director and Hubert Hadley had just been hired for a brief year (1930-1931) and was followed by interim director, Evelyn Wells until Glyn Morris could come as the the new Director.  It was an unstable time at the School.

In late spring of 1930 the new Danish farmer, Peder Moler, immediately encountered a slew of challenges, not the least of which was resistance to any foreigner changing long-standing mountain subsistence farming methods.  As a “furriner” Moler persisted as best he could, and was from all accounts, an energetic and visionary farmer, but one who was “severe” in his demands. His tight “command” of the farm and his crews led to tensions in the work place. Oscar Kneller, an amiable and seasoned farmer of the Appalachians was quickly hired in July of 1930 and was charged to help Moler. The two were, by all accounts, a good team and they produced record crops.  Cabbages and tomatoes were in abundant supply.  The surplus of cabbage was so great that it was still feeding the school “until Christmas the following winter.” [Wells, History, p. 26]

Moler and Kneller made many improvements to agricultural practice as well as the grounds of the School but events at the School soon slowed that progress.  On May Day in 1932  an unusual act of violence occurred on campus at Pine Mountain.  A disturbed young man came to campus, following an argument about a love triangle in the community.  He threatened a student with a gun and then killed him   Moler, who was present at the event, was very shaken by the confrontation and the shooting and the events following the murder.  Glyn Morris, the new School Director, hired in 1931, asked Moler to accompany him on the arduous hike across Pine mountain to the Big Black Mountain community to deliver the news of the young man’s death to the family. The emotional event, the anguish of the family and the memory of the violence and the cultural differences profoundly affected Moler and he decided to return to Denmark. His departure left Oscar Kneller singly in charge of the farm.

Kneller was an energetic worker and he immediately set about completing projects begun by Moler and enhancing them. One important project was the purchase of a silo for the barn.  The silo was expected to bring down farm costs, particularly for winter feed. Other projects included the further straightening of Isaac’s Creek, particularly in front of the Office and the completion of the pathway and steps to the Infirmary from the lower roadway.  In School documents there is reference to the “hardsurfacing” of roads by Moler, This most likely is a reference to the use of gravel and particularly coal cinders which gave the roads protection in the winter freeze and thaws.  This practical road surfacing and re-use of coal burned in the campus furnaces, was a practice Kneller continued.

Evelyn Wells, in her unpublished history of the School, describes at length the importance of the addition of the silo and Oscar Kneller‘s role in proving the worth of the new purchase

“Mr. Kneller’s project was the building and filling of the new silo. Up to this time all food for the cattle had been purchased and carried to the school in trucks from across the mountain, and it had been most expensive.  There was some disagreement over the building of the silo, but with Mr. Darwin D. Martin‘s backing the silo parts were bought, and in 1932 the farm boys and Mr. Kneller built the silo.  The first filling took several days and all the men workers helped the boys. Every evening the progress of the filling was announced in the dining room, and on the last night, when the fodder from the last field had been cut and brought up, the boys and men workers stayed on the job all night.  Early in the morning, just at daylight the task was finished,  The silo lacked three rings of being filled, but all the corn was put away.

At he end of November 1931 the cost of the Dairy was $1140,08. At the end of November 1932 it cost $1471.80 which included the cost of the silo, cutter, and all incidental expenses of transportation and erection.  Ensilage lasted until the middle of March.  No hay was bought. The argument for building the silo was that it could be bought, built, filled and still we could come out at the end of the year with no more expense for the dairy than the year before, leaving the end of the year with the silo paid for. Hay had cost $200 a car plus freight from Putney. It usually was necessary to buy two or three car loads. Thus, there was a saving of about $600. In May 1932 dairy expense amounted to $2469.38.  In May 1933 it was only $ 1591.38, plus the cost of the silo $541.55. 

Of course a large amount of the land was given to ensilage, and a a relatively small amount to truck garden.  But the bottom land was resting in clover, since it was practically exhausted.  It was replaced with [a] vegetable garden between the creek and the tool house.  This record was made in the spring, and at that time a large number of cans of peas had been put away [number not given] the cabbage between 12,000 and 15,000 heads looked well, and corn covered the hill below the chapel.”  [Evelyn Wells, History, p. 26] 

Crop rotation, another new farm practice, had also been introduced slowly to many local farmers by the school. Some already practiced this technique, having learned by close observation of their soils. The introduction of crop rotation helped to ensure more sustainable farmland for the School and for farmers in the community.  Under this practice, crops were given systematic rotation, i.e. cabbage fields were rotated annually with corn and corn with beans, and so on.  In fall corn shocks, fodder for animals, often dotted fields where  the year before cabbage grew for the school’s extensive canning program. Under the gentle guidance of Oscar Kneller, the majority of the farmers in the area adopted the rotation practice and local crops began to thrive and steep hillsides began to heal and to suffer less erosion.

In a 1920’s editorial in the Jackson Times, the newspaper of Jackson, Kentucky, the editor ruminates that farming

….. for rich and poor, for city and country should stimulate idealism, purpose, action, responsibility, service, brotherhood, true patriotism. It should aim to make better citizens by making better men. And finally, it should recognize the fundamental education in the doing of the common tasks of every day—the education which only needs to be linked with intelligent vision to make everyday life better and happier. This is our problem in the mountains.

The editor further asks

Is it a mountain problem alone?

Clearly by the 1920’s farming had taken on a role beyond just subsistence and had been integrated into the economic and educational dialogue.

The next farmer, whose history spans some 27 years at the School, was a product of this economic and educational mantra.  William Hayestrained by Oscar Kneller when he came to the School as a student in 1933 became a valuable member of the farming crew. In late 1938 when he graduated from the boarding school at Pine Mountain he became the next farmer for the School and was retained until 1953.  Glyn Morris, hired in 1931 as the Executive Director of the School, had a particular crusade to engage students in industrial training and to meet them where their strengths and interests intersected.  He found this in Bill Hayes and also in his appointment of the farm assistant, Brit Wilder, the grandson of William Creech, who had entered the school during its founding years as one of the youngest children ever admitted to the School. Hayes and Wilder were a productive team for many years.

The Hayes years were the longest tenure of any farmer at the School, stretching from 1938 until 1953.  This era will be covered in Dancing in the Cabbage Patch V- FARM & DAIRY – THE MORRIS YEARS.  Also see:  William Hayes.

FARMING AND LAND OWNERSHIP TODAY

Land ownership in Harlan County has changed very little over the years, but ownership of mineral rights has dramatically altered  the idea of “ownership” and in some cases the pride that accompanies it.  As contracts continue to be drawn up for the new gas resources of the region it is not clear what this will mean for the relationship of future generations to their land, their water and their quality of life, but it is clear that the mountain garden will survive.  The transition from subsistence farming to mountain gardens reflects the shift in transportation, food availability, and life style in the Southern Appalachians.

Today, many family lands remain ravaged or vulnerable to the continuing injustice of the Broad Form Deed or “mineral rights” which allows the taking of minerals from lands that were given over by a “broad-form” deed which allowed the owner of the mineral rights to indiscriminately remove their purchased “minerals”.  The practice of mountain-top removal is the most indiscriminate form of this “taking.” Unfortunately the invasive mining practices of today could not be imagined by those who sold their mineral rights through these early broad-form deeds. The broad-form deed returned many families to tenant farmers as coal owners came and scraped off the surface of the farm to remove their mineral — much of this “taking” was bought for as little as a dollar an acre.  It was difficult to know in the pre-industrial eras that such easy money would later bring such hard lives.

The quality of rural life in Appalachia continues to shift as as new means and practices of exploitation are discovered. The uneasy tenancy of the land in Appalachia has shifted the agricultural focus of many families.  Why work the land if it will be stolen away in future years? Why work the land if the grocery store is within driving distance?  Why work the land if there is no one who remembers how to manage seasonal crops?  Why work the land if the only seeds available are GMO altered and will not come back the following year? Why work the land when there is so much entertainment to divert creativity? The excuses for abandoning the land for local farming and gardening are many.  Hard times, however,  always seem to return families to their garden and farm. The current downturn in the economy has brought many families back to the land in eastern Kentucky and with that return, many have begun to realize the profit potential of truck gardening, specialized crops, and family savings and the human potential of families in the garden,

Loren Eisely in his small study of Francis Bacon, The Man Who Saw Through Time, (1961) said that Bacon understood

“…that we must distinguish between the normal course of nature, the wanderings of nature, which today we might associate with the emergence of the organically novel, and, finally, the “art” that man increasingly exerts upon nature and that results, in turn, in the innovations of his cultural world, another kind of hidden potential in the universe.”

I would argue that a dance is better than wandering and it seems that dancing works best with a partner.

GO TO:   

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – FARMING THE LAND 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – MORRIS yEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII- IN THE GARDEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII – IN THE KITCHEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUITTE 

 

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog: DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – II

INTRODUCTION  –  GROWING FROM THE SOIL

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Land in the Southern Appalachians is precious soil. The people grow out of this soil as surely as plants take root and spring upward towards sun. The people grow strong to work the soil and they bend as the soil pulls their tired bodies back to lay in peace within it. Yet, the cycle is more a dance than a dirge. The dance is the dance so many children and adults have today forgotten. It is the jitterbug of stream-beds and the waltz of wind-blown mountain tops. It is the courtly movement through rows of cabbages and corn. It’s the balanced step-dance across a foot-log. It is a dance that educates for wholeness; the kind of wholeness often found in the rhythm of rural country sides.

Dancing in the cabbage patch was part of the early education at Pine Mountain Settlement School. It was not an education just for children. It was the exercise of everyone who marveled at the cycles of life and the bountiful bloom of new crops as they re-shaped flat field and high hill. It was and is all that is intuited in the fragile relationship with the land. A dance in the cabbage patch is an exercise in the nourishment of both body and soul. It is a solo dance made joyful by the sharing.

We can dance alone, or we can grow the patch together. At one time Pine Mountain raised over 10,000 heads of cabbage. Today, together, the cabbage patches are unlimited for us all if we can re-connect with the land.

“Dancing in the Cabbage Patch” is structured into a series of essays, or in the current jargon “Blogs,” that explore the land of Appalachia, farming, foodways, and the celebrations found in the unique Appalachian settlement school of Pine Mountain, now celebrating its 100th year.

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The foundation of Pine Mountain can be found in the early efforts of key visionaries in both the School and the community.  Some of these unique individuals are described in their BIOGRAPHY located in the PINE MOUNTAIN COLLECTIONS ARCHIVE. Some may be discovered in the many stories that have been told about this geographic region.

When William Creech gave his land so that Pine Mountain Settlement School could begin in 1913, he also gave to the School one of the most famous quotes associated with the institution. Katherine Pettit, a co-founder of the School, used this brief passage that was part of a longer letter by William Creech, when promoting the institution. It continues to resonate with many cultures and lives. Most all of Pettit’s successors at the School have found this quote to be foundational.

An Old Man’s Hope for the Children of the Kentucky Mountains

I don’t look after wealth for them. I look after the prosperity of our nation. I want all younguns taught to serve the livin’ God. Of course, they wont all do that, but they can have good and evil laid before them and they can choose which they will. I have heart and craving that our people may grow better. I have deeded my land to the Pine Mountain Settlement School to be used for school purposes as long as the Constitution of the United States stands. Hopin’ it may make a bright and intelligent people after I’m dead and gone.

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Uncle William and Aunt Sal stand in front of their old home while re-enacting their wedding picture. hook_007_mod.jpg

Uncle William and Aunt Sal donated  135*  acres of land for the Pine Mountain Settlement School. [*This acreage varies in the historical record and often includes the donation of other land from community and lumber and mining companies.] In this photograph the Creech couple re-enact their wedding in front of their original cabin home in 1917. The original “Aunt Sal’s Cabin” was relocated to the grounds of the Settlement School in 1926 and  is now a central landmark.

Katherine Pettit  (1868 -1938) was a Kentucky native.  She served as co-director at Pine Mountain Settlement School until her retirement in 1930. For the next five years she traveled throughout Harlan County urging farmers to adopt modern farming techniques.  In 1932, she visited South America. In that same year, she received the Sullivan Medallion from the Univ. of Kentucky as the outstanding citizen who of the state in that year. She died Sept. 3, 1938 at the age of sixty-eight.

Ethel de Long Zande  (1868 -1928), a New Jersey native and Smith College graduate, was recruited by Pettit to be the co-director of the School and to give academic guidance, fundraising and educational programming.  Pettit knew de Long’s work as she had served in a similar position at Hindman Settlement School where she worked with Pettit for two years. Ethel de Long provided basic education for children and training for mothers in health, cooking, and home care. She married Luigi Zande in 1918 and died much too early of cancer in 1928. Her short time at Pine Mountain left a lasting legacy.

Mary Rockwell Hook was recruited to Pine Mountain to serve as the lead architect for the buildings and the grounds of the school.  Her work represents one of the first instances of women’s work in the architectural profession.  As one of the first group of women to graduate from the school of architecture in the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, her work has earned the School recognition as a National Historic Landmark. The architecture, like the people grew up out of the land and it always runs as a sub-text throughout all that is Pine Mountain Settlement School.

“Uncle” and “Aunt” were generally not designations of familial relationship, but were titles of respect and endearment in the Pine Mountain community.  Following his donation of land for the school in 1913, Uncle William only lived six more years, until 1918.  Aunt Sal lived on until 1925. It was their generous donation of land, their advocacy and their vision that made the school on the headwaters of the Kentucky River, a reality.  When Uncle William and Aunt Sal gave the land they did so with the intent to create a school and they sought out the two remarkable women who became the new Settlement’s directors, Pettit and de Long.

In Pettit and de Long the Creeches found a congruence of goals and vision. Pettit and de Long took the educational challenge of Uncle William to heart. Katherine Pettit, a member of the Lexington Federation of Women’s Clubs, had, with May Stone, founded Hindman Settlement School in 1900, and knew what she wanted in a school.  Perhaps more importantly, she knew where she wanted a school.   Ethel de Long , who had worked for many years as an educator  with Pettit at Hindman, was a pragmatic and articulate program creator. Like Pettit, she, too,had a profound attachment to the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

The Creeches, Pettit,  de Long, and Hook as well as others in the Pine Mountain community were a productive and dynamic combination.  The quick formation of an Advisory Board provided the outside oversight, funding and professional support needed to grow the institution. The founders of 1913 gave the school a solid foundation on which it would grow and flourish.  And, grow it did.  In 2013 the school celebrated its one-hundredth year as an educational institution confirming the promise and the wisdom of those early planners.

Mary Rogers, wife of Burton Rogers, School Director (1949-1983), and founder of the Environmental Education program at the School, wrote a  “Story of Pine Mountain Settlement School” for the School’s 50th Anniversary.

Mary Blagdon Rogers
Mary Blagdon Rogers

It covers the history of the institution from 1913-1983.  In her brief narrative history, illustrated with her own delicate drawings, is an eloquent statement regarding the early years of the institution and the founder’s plans for the School.  She says of Pettit and the School

” She [Pettit] had a deep love for the people, and concern for their needs.  At Hindman she had already translated the work of Jane Addams and the urban settlement movement into a rural idiom.  Now, her thoughts were turning to more isolated, as yet un-served, areas of the mountains.

 Traditional schooling was a part of her plan, but she envisaged also a settlement serving a whole community in its economic, health and cultural development.  A settlement would not attempt to substitute an outside culture for the indigenous.  It would try to strengthen people’s faith in their own heritage, making use of both the mountain environment and their unique traditions as media for learning.  It would help people to retain a secure sense of their own worth as human beings. 

 The new school must have sufficient acreage to supply the bulk of its own needs.  It must be less dependent on the slow, unreliable transportation of supplies by ox wagon through almost roadless country.

Education was foremost in the mind of  Uncle William, and education was at the center of the mission of the two women co-founders of the institution, and all three agreed that this education must be a pragmatic education. It must give the children of the school not only ‘book larnin’, but it must also give them “education for life.” Uncle William described this “education for life” as an understanding of farming practice and a respect for the land that would combine with traditional educational practice. Only then could the total education of the person occur.

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Head, hand and heart at work in this early carpentry project by a student of the school.

Throughout the one-hundred year history of the School, the adherence to an agrarian focus is central to the understanding Pine Mountain’s “education for life.”  The pragmatic work engaged by all who passed through the School, emphasized education as a life-long process and one for which they, alone, were responsible. “Education for life” demanded mindfulness throughout every day. Participation in farming, food preparation, community celebration, woodworking, environmental field work and more, were also anchored in a classroom experience.  Even today, this hybrid approach solidified by hands-on learning experiences, has proven to be one of the most effective learning strategies, .

An “education for life” is what the poet and writer Wendell Berry described in his thoughtful series of essays, A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural, (1970, 1972),  He calls it a kind of “local life aware of itself.” He asserts that this “regionalism is the awareness that local life is intricately dependent, [not just ] for its quality but also for its continuance, upon local knowledge.”  Berry dedicated his small book of essays to Ann and Harry Caudill, two Eastern Kentucky locals from Whitesburg, Kentucky, who were intensely aware of their place in the land and who educated us all on the fragility of Appalachian land in Night Comes to the Cumberlands (1962), a book, in the words of Steward Udall, that is the “story of land failure and the failure of men.”

Today as we move rapidly toward ecological and social disruptions, the need to remind ourselves of our responsibility to an “education for life” is even more critical.  The education at Pine Mountain has always served in this capacity.  Pine Mountain Settlement School is a site that educates for life and that is committed to the literacy of historical community and how that history informs the living community. This education, both formal and informal, is essential to tying together the land and the people in a fundamental and sustainable eco-system.

“Twenty years ago [1912] Kentucky ranked fortieth in Education among the states of the Union;  today she is still fortieth,” reported the Kentucky Education Commission after a two-year study made of education in schools and colleges in the Commonwealth from 1932 to 1934.  This was the pre-Depression era and it raised desperate appeals for ideas and help with a school system ravaged by a growing economic crisis.   As part of their 1932 study, the state surveyed the students whose lives they were charged to improve. Pine Mountain was visited and queried about educational needs and programs.   The surveyors found no shortage of students who were willing to closely critique their school and to make recommendations to their surveyors.  Remarkably, the surveyors listened.  The educational journeys described by the students served as a model for planning a new course for education within the state.

In 2010 Kentucky’s ranking in a national survey was 34th in the nation.  In two years the state jumped 24 places in the Quality Counts annual report as recorded in Education Week magazine. In 2013 the state ranked an amazing 10th in the national rankings for K-12 education.  Something is working. Attention to rural youth is part of the success.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/01/10/2471228/kentucky-ranks-10th-in-national.html#storylink=cpy

The rural youth guidance institute, called the Pine Mountain Institute, begun by director, Glyn Morris, in 1934 became known throughout the country as a progressive and successful educational model.  The Pine Mountain students were “educated for life” and the Depression years in Appalachia and at  Pine Mountain Settlement School provided some of the best lessons for that education. The 1930s had many teaching moments that few who experienced them, forgot — student or teacher.

The school still stands as a model for educators who want to “educate for life.”  Today, particularly in the field of environmental education, Pine Mountain continues to lead the way in the state of Kentucky across all age groups.  Today it educates across the generations with adult programming, and promotes education as a life-long learning process.  A brief 1934 article for The Pine Cone, a school paper written by Pine Mountain students, reflects on the state’s campaign to reform education for its students. It demonstrates how the students actively engaged their educational planning process in the 1930’s:

A somewhat unusual feature of this campaign was the enlisting of the services and sympathies of the students themselves by the state. The generous response of the Pine Mountain students to this appeal for comments was characteristic of the sense of community promoted at the school.  The school, started twenty-one years earlier gave to the children a willingness to give of their energies that the cause of education may be advanced.  They described the influence of Pine Mountain as a real education that “will help us work a little more skillfully, think a little more clearly and act a little more kindly.”

The exploration of farming, food and celebrations at Pine Mountain Settlement School found in this series of essays has been written by one of Pine Mountain’s  children, the daughter of one of the School’s farmers.   The essays are offered as a contribution to the history of the institution and are filtered through the writer’s perspective. There are many other perspectives.

The photographs of rural life taken by various photographers, during the long history of the school also found in this essay, are derived from a life lived close to the land.  Within the faces of the students, the workers, and community families, especially in the children, can be found wonder, stubbornness, joy, fear, defiance, pride, and hope.  In some of the personal narratives captured in letters, documents and  autobiographies and now located in the Pine Mountain Settlement School collection the many perspectives may be studied. In these often very personal reflections can be found a mountainside of deep wisdom, peace,

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humility, despair, determination, hope, anger, but, especially, joy.  Some who view the photographs or read the workers letters about the community will only see the poverty and possibly the exploitation of “outsiders.”  That is not what the school was or is about and that is not what the archive ultimately reveals.

The author  John Berger reminds us in And our faces, my heart, as brief as photos (Berger, 1984)  that time and space are inseparable but that we must be careful that we give so much to the historical projection of time. “…it is,” he argues, “space not time that hides consequences from us.” It is “up Cutshin and down Greasy,”  and “between Hel-fer-Sartin and Kingdom Come,” and Boston and Turkey Neck Bend, that we arrange our critical perspective.

The agricultural essence of the unique rural community on the north side of Pine Mountain as explored through the lives of those who worked at Pine Mountain Settlement School and those who lived near-by in the community, is as relevant today as it was when the first vision was shaped by the founders.  The words of those who knew and know the land best are sprinkled throughout the following narratives, but it’s the photographs, the images of land and people that most vividly detail the agrarian evolution of the community. These are pictures in which education is in a constant reciprocal stream.  In photograph and text the interactive life along the Pine Mountain range and at the Pine Mountain Settlement School is a reassertion of geographies of hope and finding a personal space in our society.

Pine Mountain Settlement School today continues to be an experiment in rural settlement school practice as well as a model environmental education school. As the School celebrates 100 years,  the community celebrates with the School  — people and place and an unwavering relationship to the land and to the lessons that may be learned from a close association with geography in all its variants.  People and place, student and land, farmer, ecologist and mountainside, are all tied to an educational vision and mission. Today, in the school’s programs and in its “education for life” the evolving vision and mission remains fresh and inspiring. No matter where one enters the narrative about the School, the general aim is clear.  It is to create critical minds and a sensitive eyes when looking at how seasons pass,  space evolves, and lives come and pass in the valley.  It is a narrative that is both sequential and simultaneous, history and historical.

Today, as our polemics are animated by ideological conflict, we often lose our close touch with both time and space.  History melts into a sea of irrationality and speed and  often only surfaces to support some argument or political position. We tend to forget in the rush of our lives that there are many more generations to inspire, and many more lessons to learn and many more stories to tell of our unique place in time and space.  Many of those lessons are found in our historical archives, while others may be found on a hike to Jack’s Gap where the expanse of mountains stretches like a troubled sea, green and brown with surface mining, but fragrant with fresh pine and vibrant with sunrise and sunset.

As we all reach for improvement in the quality of our lives, there are many reminders in the stories and images from Pine Mountain that tell us, like Uncle William,  that life does not need the accumulation of wealth, so much as it requires the nurturing of the wealth that surrounds us all. As we look backward with intelligence at the 100 years of Pine Mountain Settlement School, we will hopefully be better prepared to move forward with inspiration and intention to a vital future wherever that future may find each of us. I suspect Uncle William is smiling as his dream unfolds.

GO TO:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

BACK:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I – ABOUT

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH I – ABOUT

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Blog:  DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH

ABOUT
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Dancing in the Cabbage Patch is a blog that was named for the photograph seen above.  It is a personal reflection on the history of one of the oldest and remaining settlement schools in eastern Kentucky.

Founded in 1913, Pine Mountain Settlement School is located in the mountains of eastern Kentucky in Harlan County.  It is one of several rural settlement schools influenced by the urban settlement movement that flourished in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth. The push in the mountains for “Community work,” following the Reconstruction era, brought many ideas and workers from the urban settlement houses and centers to the largely decentralized agrarian communities of the Southern Appalachians.  In the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia a robust rural settlement school movement took hold at the beginning of the twentieth-century.

A region of ridges and hollows, the long chain of mountains that comprise the Southern Appalachians were rich in natural resources but during the early twentieth-century the people who had settled the area were believed to be outside the accelerating industrial development of the country’s major cities.  Eastern Kentucky, in particular, lagged in development in many areas; social, economic, educational, and industrial skills. One of the objectives of the rural settlement movement in the Appalachians was to provide industrial training for people tucked away in the most remote corners of the region.

Supported by the early rural settlement movement, programs were initiated to ease the rural communities into the mainstream of America’s burgeoning industrialization but paradoxically the same movement sought to retain the isolation of the culture from  the perceived social ills of rapacious and rapid mechanization.   Workers in the early settlement schools danced an uneven course between unfamiliar cultural patterns and their own adaptation of a perceived culture that only needed to be “awakened.” The communities around the rural settlements of eastern Kentucky danced the “Running Set”, a fast-paced, energetic dance that generally had only the human voice to call out the moves.  It was a dance that echoed their lives.  Recreation had to be experienced quickly, guided by visual and auditory direction, for the patterns that shaped the lives of the mountain people was the seasonal life of subsistence farming.

Many of the workers who came to the isolated valleys and hollows promoted the isolation as a salvation from the evils of the industrial world by adopting a modified Arts and Craft Movement ethos. Others found a better balance through the introduction of many of the tenants of Progressive education, particularly through programs of civic-minded industrial training combined with a standard educational framework.  Pine Mountain Settlement School in these early years, charted a course somewhere between the two extremes.

In the region, many social service agencies, as well as church and charitable organizations developed institutions modeled on the early urban settlement movement, where plans were proposed to guide the area out of poverty and illiteracy by becoming a progressive presence in the community. Of these institutions Pine Mountain Settlement School, a uniquely non-sectarian institution introduced a powerful settlement school model for rural education and service that still inspires and is remarkably fresh when compared to contemporary trends in education and social services whether urban or rural.

The following  topical essays contained in “Dancing in the Cabbage Patch,” is a personal journey and is not written to reflect the views of the current institution but to trace through personal reflection some of the highlights of Pine Mountain Settlement School during its 100 year history.

FORWARD

Perhaps overly romantic and nostalgic, the words “pastoral” and “buccolic” have often been used to describe Pine Mountain Settlement School. These words are most frequently used in the description of farm lands. Yet, in eastern Kentucky, generally, the farmland has often been described in disparaging terms, particularly by visitors to the region. Why this difference? The answers are complex.

The general perception of the land that comprises Pine Mountain Settlement School, in fact, stands in direct contrast to the observations of many of those who have written about Eastern Kentucky. The descriptive adjectives used for many Appalachian farms and sometimes its people, often read “ravaged,” “un-cultivated,” “disorganized,” “unkempt,” “scraggly,” “impoverished,” dirty, and other pejoratives that disparage any perception of beauty. Why is Pine Mountain “buccolic”, “lovely”, “peaceful”, “Shangrila”, “natures majestic garden” and on and on? Again, the answers are complex.

Farming practice has always been central to the life of the Pine Mountain Settlement School and its surrounding communities.  The planning of the school was built upon the desire of William Creech to teach good farming practice as well as to educate students in a standard educational curriculum. He saw these two objectives as joined in a reverence for the land and its people.

Farming at the School has a very long history and one that has been integrated into most every program of the institution through the course of its one-hundred years. While it has never been strictly a “farm school” it has had a long association with the production of food for the body and mind.  nature and nurture have always found a partnership at the school and were and are regularly celebrated in a variety of ways.

Like farming, celebratory events also  play an integral role in the history of Pine Mountain School. Like the cycles of agricultural life, community celebrations help to establish the ebb and flow of life at the School and in the community. Many annual events such as Fair Day , celebrated in the Fall, or the Nativity Play at Christmas, May Day in the Spring, or the school’s former annual Spring Dogwood Breakfast, all have their origins in a celebration of the seasons and are generally accompanied by food or by displays of the produce of farming.

Pageants and plays are remembered fondly by many students who attended the school and many of these memories were or are associated with agrarian practice or with some foodway.

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May Day c 1920 – young children dressed in greenery for the celebration.

Whether performed for entertainment, for educating, or for the celebration of special people, event, time or place, events at the School provided an opportunity for a connection with both the past and the future of the institution. In the surrounding community past and present are equally revered but future rarely intruded into daily community conversation. But like dreams, the future was held close like some shining city on the hill. Today, the community of promise seems even further away and celebrations have been steadily declining.

Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Robin Hood’s adventures, the Mikado, HMS Pinafore, the Cooperative Store skits, the Kangawa play, Halloween, the carrying in of the Yule Log, the simple dialog of the Nativity Play — all gave early students the opportunity to don costumes and assume other personalities and to imagine themselves in other lives, other countries and other times. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace …” was found written on the wall of a humble mountain cabin.  It is a quote from the Bible, but it is also a well-known quote from the annual Nativity Play at Pine Mountain.

The early institutional celebrations allowed the staff workers to gather and renew their friendships on the campus or were celebrations that brought the school and the community together in cooperative celebration. What was carried away could be life-changing.

The PHOTOGRAPHS from Pine Mountain document and celebrate many of the events at the School and the community while also capturing some of the most compelling images of institutional and community life in early rural Appalachia.  There are intimate portraits of Appalachian families at work and at play. There are scrapbooks by settlement school workers who gathered their visual memories and left them for the school to ponder their aggregation.  There are official collections of promotional photographs that sought to convey a particular image of the institution for calendars and brochures.  There are many overlaps and duplicates in the images across the many collections.  Sharing was always part of Pine Mountain’s culture. And, there are many months and years of lives in the photographs and mementos gathered in the collections, scrapbooks, travelogues, and albums.  The images also capture the essence of the School as it grew and changed.

Music and dance, folk craft, mountain vernacular architecture, clothing, farm techniques and implements, food and food preparation, and many more themes may be found in the photographs taken over the life of the School.  Some of the most compelling images are those of the workers and students as they danced … and danced … and danced some more.pmss001_bas098As the educational programs changed and grew and as the current Environmental Education programs evolved, the photographs capture the shift in the scale of farming, the use of the land and the growing awareness of the preciousness of the natural environment.  In todays technological world this preciousness is even more compelling. The photographs are celebrations of the people as well as of the land.  Together, the land and the people provide what many call a “sense of place.”

Perhaps nowhere is the sense of place captured better, or traced more intimately than in the transition of food-ways at the institution.  Change may be observed in the narratives and the photographs when annual events were either down-sized or were, in some cases eliminated. The relationship between the land and the foodways of the people who shared the land may be clearly seen as food, events, and farming intermingle.

For example, May Day and Dogwood Breakfast, two spring-time events were eliminated from the annual calendar shortly after the closure of the boarding school in 1949.  After the closure of the boarding school the intimate community of the School began to fragment, as workers lived off-site, the tasks of the school became overwhelming with no students to crew the many jobs. The focus on agriculture declined. The many changes at the School reflected a shift in the general sense of community in both the central institution and also in the community at large. The numbers of staff at the school declined over the years and many workers came for short stays or had little knowledge or connection to the historical campus.  Foodways changed as more processed food was easily attainable and preparation of harvested food diminished.

In the community, the events in near-by urban centers such as Harlan, or other urban centers such as Hazard or Cumberland, or even distant Lexington, began to pull families away from the immediate community life of the Pine Mountain valley. kingman_092b The isolation of the region was dramatically altered by roads, particularly the first ROAD, Laden Trail, across Pine Mountain, which the Settlement School sponsored with Harlan County. New roads opened the region for an ebb and flow of new cultural ideas and life-styles. Soldiers returning from WWI  and especially WWII, shifted the cultural climate even more. Today, television and other media entertainment continue to contribute to the fracture of community cohesion. The reliance on immediate communication can be acutely felt at the school as visitors roam the campus for “hot-spots” to keep in cell-phone contact with family or business. 

With the full implementation of the Environmental Education program in the 1970s, older programs at the school shifted from a focus on hands-on agricultural management of the campus land resources to an educational understanding of the broader concepts of the total natural environment and its cooperative management.  Quickly, the new environmental consciousness of the 1960s and 1970s aligned with K-12 educational science standards found in the public school curricula and environmental education programs began to form. Pine Mountain School quickly realized the importance of its history and geography to the new environmental education movement and began to shape programs.  Pine Mountain saw its opportunity as a leader in the field of environmental education and was, in fact,  one of the first such programs in the state of Kentucky.  Today, the environmental program at the School remains a model of environmental education while keeping pace with the growing national environmentalism.

Whether “jitterbugging” in the local streams, or waltzing across a ridge-top, or learning to tango with a rapid thunderstorm, the dances with nature at the School are endless and sustainable.

PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHS have always been important to the School. What the photographers at Pine Mountain selected to photograph documents the change in the community as well as larger cultural shifts. While the photographs capture the essence of the lifestyle of the age, they also suggest the personal interest of the photographers as they experienced their cultural context. The visual record, the photograph and certainly the individuals in the photograph, capture what the local culture saw as it looked back at the many cameras and photographers. The tensions are almost palpable in the distance between camera, subject, and photographer.  Both palpable and frozen, the many images taken at the school and in the community graphically capture  photographer, image and subject as they instantly interact —  their gazes joined, the landscape stilled and quiet, a thousand questions unanswered — just as it is in one blink of life.

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Visitors from Viet Nam in the classroom at PMSS, 1950s. [pmss_0037]

Photographs are remarkable vehicles for primary source information and their visual content opens for the teacher, researcher and the viewer a variety of windows into other times and other lives. The potential contributions of Pine Mountain Settlement School’s photographs to Appalachian cultural research is extraordinary.

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Community family near PMSS. [Friends & Neighbors – VI-51 ]

Mary Rogers, wife of Burton Rogers, one of the Directors of the School, wrote in the “Preface” of the Pine Mountain Album – 1913-1963, prepared for the 50th anniversary of the School:

“Most of us are so busy trying to do what must be done today, and planning ahead to what needs to be done tomorrow that we have little time to look back to the things which happened yesterday. But we are celebrating an anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Pine Mountain Settlement School, and so we will turn to the past — get out the old album and look at the pictures.

It’s a funny thing, looking at old pictures. They don’t show the things that matter most: Uncle William’s craving that his people might grow better; Miss Pettit’s dedication to bringing help to the mountains; Mrs. Zande’s high standards and loving understanding of people; Mr. Morris’ dynamic energy; the different gifts brought by hundreds of workers over the years.

Nor do they show the important things in a student’s life: the moments of courage; the hours of service; the growth in understanding; the vivid enjoyment of life; the deepening love for a place and its people; and sometimes the realization that the source of all things is the Love of God. All the same, let’s look at the pictures, some faded and old-fashioned, but taken because someone wanted to “keep” something from the past, and let us try and read into them the things for which they stand.”
                                                                                            Mary Rogers, 1963

Another fifty years has just been added to the visual history of the School.  In 2013 Pine Mountain celebrated its 100th Anniversary. One-hundred years of “Dancing in the Cabbage Patch.”

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DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH – ABOUT

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH  I – GUIDE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH II – INTRODUCTION

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH III – PLACE

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IV – FARMING THE LAND 1913-1930

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY I – EARLY YEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH V – FARM & DAIRY II – MORRIS yEARS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VI – POULTRY

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VII- IN THE GARDEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH VIII – IN THE KITCHEN

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH IX – DIETICIANS

DANCING IN THE CABBAGE PATCH X – IN THE DINING ROOM, MANNERS & ETIQUETTE 

 

 

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CHRISTMAS AT PINE MOUNTAIN 1915 & 1917

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 16: Special and Annual Events

Contents

Christmas 1915

Evelyn Wells ; Ethel de Long ; opened packages ; filled stockings ; trimmed the house ; delivered trees to neighbors, Aunt Sis Shell, Aunt Polly Day, Aunt Sal ; Santa played by Mr. Zande ; hung stockings ; children received gifts ; trimmed tree in House in the Woods ; snowed ; pageant of carols ; manger scene ; Bettie Cornett as Mary ; visit by Santa ; arrival of drunken visitors ; dinner before fireplace at Far House ; arrival of Christmas mail ; mule ride across mountain ;

Christmas 1917

no longer drinking and shooting at Christmas ; preference for simple gifts from nature as delivered by neighbors ; letter from Santa mandating good behavior ; birthday cake from Santa ; children delivered baby Christmas trees to neighbors ; [comments on narrow views in narratives and missions of settlement workers, balanced by their good works ; fine line between “work” and “production”] ; Nativity Scene ; visit by Santa ; need for donations ;


Transcriptions

Christmas 1915

*From the notes of Evelyn Wells, derived from letters of staff at Pine Mountain Settlement School. The author is unknown but is possibly Ethel de Long who served as Housemother at Far House in 1915. The use of “Aunt” or “Uncle” is used frequently as an acknowledgement of respect and friendship and not as a familial kinship.

This week we have been sitting up half the night opening the packages that came in — a mixed bag! — and filling tarletan stockings with candy by the hundred (575 in all), and then the family stockings. School stopped on Wednesday, luckily, considering all that had to be done. We trimmed the whole house with laurel and hemlock — ropes, baskets and wreaths everywhere until it was like bringing in all outdoors, so fragrant and woodsy. Thursday afternoon we took the little Christmas trees to Aunt Sis Shell and Aunt Polly Day. We cut the trees along the way and trimmed them by the roadside, and then bore them to the houses, singing “Here we come a-wassailing,” as we arrived. What a picture the children made as we went through the yard at Aunt Polly’s — a yard for the pigs mostly — and into her one-room cabin where she sat coughing and moaning and trying to knit. She was quite cheered however by our visit, and was even moved to show interest in the things we brought her. People around here usually say nothing at all in acknowledgment of a present, though they are really very grateful. Aunt Polly’s daughter came in from milking as we were leaving and showed us her twelve-day-old baby, all done up in red flannel and quilts.

Friday the children took a tree up to Aunt Sal‘s, but didn’t go in, of course (quarantine) [smallpox]. Aunt Sal is almost ready to be released from quarantine, and we left the tree at the gate and she came out and got it. The day was so warm that we had our supper on the terrace by lantern light, and just as we were finishing, Santa Claus arrived with gifts for all the family, and the children were quite overcome. Santa was Mr. Zande, and very adequate in the role, though wordless. He had wanted to give everyone presents and I had stayed up till 12:30 the night before, tying them up, so I was quite surprised to get another gift from him — a handkerchief and a box of face powder. Likewise, gifts for Mrs. Light and Miss Lincoln.

Then we went in and had the big Christmas tree, and hung our stockings up — with the exception of two bad boys who had lost that privilege — such a sad time for them! Then the children — lucky things — went to bed and after fried eggs and bacon, cake and oranges, we went to work. Candy, hair-ribbons, knives, tops, books, dolls, aprons, shirts, awfully nice things, eight presents for every child, and stockings up for the two bad ones after they had gone to bed. All the house presents were put in Miss de Long’s stocking, nice toys and books and a beautiful doll. By one o’clock we were in bed and it had started to rain, and the next thing I knew the waifs were outside my window, — singing.

At six we lit the tree and the children came in to their stockings, and had a rapturous hour of it. But such rain — Just teeming! After breakfast, to the accompaniment of French harps — every child got one — I went up to the House in the Woods to trim the big tree, with Mr. Zande’s help, and some of the hands. One very nice box we’d had was a big collection of Christmas tree ornaments from Marshall Field’s, and we really achieved a lovely tree.

About 9:30 the rain turned to snow, which continued all day, piling up everywhere and absolutely transforming things. We didn’t have a big assemblage on account of the weather, only about 150, mostly men. They began to arrive very early, of course, and I set them all to work decorating.

[Isaac's Creek?]   nace_1_078a.jpg

[Isaac’s Creek?] nace_1_078a.jpg

The exercises began at eleven with our pageant of carols, which was very lovely in its simplicity. Our manger scene, with Bettie Cornett in a purple veil bending over a manger constructed by Chester that morning, and the shepherds with crooks and gifts, and the Three Kings bearing staffs tied with holly, all against a background of laurel and snow, was beautiful. The little children were to play Old King Cole, but the King was overcome with embarrassment and began to cry, and it was fortunate that Santa appeared just then to distribute candy and snappers and balloons.

It’s such a shame that some unpleasant things interrupt all this gaiety — such as Alec Day, such a nice man, coming with several others as drunk as lords. But of course Christmas is their best time for drinking and shooting. One man at the school’s first Tree got up and made the following temperance speech: “Hit’s been put upon me to tell you fellers as how the school-women don’t want no drinking at their Tree. That’s mighty hard on us, but we’ll have our drams the day before and the day atter Christimas, and then we’ll have two Christmasses!”

We ate our dinner around the fire at Far House, and afterwards the children played with their new treasures and the grown-ups did nothing — a great treat. I was going to have a tea-party for the little girls so they could use their new dishes, but they’d really had enough done for them so the party is put off till some other long winter day.

It was a wonderful afternoon, with the snow piling up outside so quietly, and a fire within. We went to bed early, the children in a blissful state of mind. And after they were all in bed, the Christmas mail came in, a wonderful ending for us.

The next morning we slept late, and the sun was shining on the ridges across the valley, all snowy and bright. I crossed the mountain on a mule, a heavenly ride up through the silent woods, with the trees showering snow on me as I went along.

(This letter was written on the train from Harlan to Pineville, on my way out to “vacation.”)


Christmas 1917

*The following description of Christmas is taken from a much quoted account of the 1917 Christmas at the School.

Dear Friend:

This letter is a Christmas reminiscence from Pine Mountain.

“Well, Christmas, hit used to be the rambangin’est, shootin’est, killin’est, chair-flingin’est day in the hull year till the school come, and now look what a pretty time we’ve had today. I didn’t know you could git so many folks together and have sich a peaceable time. I never did come to one of your Christmas trees before, but I seed you never had a killin’ at em yit. So I come this year.”

Not a chair was flung at Pine Mountain on Christmas, nor a dram drunk, and no one was killed! These are meaningful negatives to us at the ‘Back of Beyond,’ telling of something accomplished since that Christmas two year ago when we collected the pistols before the party began. But you ‘furriners,’ who have dwelt under the wig of peace, ‘since allus ago,’ can scarcely imagine how pretty a time the negatives made possible.

Our neighbors know that we like gifts of hemlock and holly and mistletoe better than any ‘fotched-on’ presents. So, for two weeks before Christmas, we were continually interrupted by visitors bringing us greens; — grey worn figures, honest, plain, kindly faces — what a glory they gained from the marvelous boughs of holly or the great bunches of mistletoe that somebody had ‘clomb a tree fer.’ The golden apples of the Hesperides could be give with no sweeter grace. Sometimes a neighbor brought us a gift of eggs, a rarity at Christmas when the hens ‘ain’t layin’ good,’ Sometimes honey just ‘robbed’ out of a bee-gum, and once it was a great bunch of gorgeous ‘feathers of the pea-fowl.’

Some ten days before Christmas, just at dusk, Santa Clause left a letter at our gate, full of kindly information about himself and his ways for the thirty or forty children who had never seen Christmas before. He not only laid stress on his well-known love of good behavior but went into particulars, writing: ‘I won’t bring any candy to little boys or girls who leave their nightgowns on the floor in the morning or don’t open their beds, or keep their noses clean.’ Our chattering little boys and girls discussed these commands from every angle and with whole-hearted faith. Much-desired ends were accomplished by Christmas magic.

One night reindeer bells were heard far off. Undoubtedly Santa Clause must be riding along the hill-tops hiding presents against Christmas Eve, when he could not possibly bring enough for all from the North Pole. The children, just dropping off to sleep in the dark of the sleeping porches, quivered with joy; but small William, six years old, remembered the least boy’s morning shortcomings. ‘Pleath, Santa Clause,’ he called out in the dark, ‘ecthcuse Cam just thith once for leavin’ hith nightgown on the floor. He won’t never do it again.’

A few nights later, when the bells were heard again as the children were undressing, little Green already in his pajamas, dashed across the room for his handkerchief. ‘Look out for your noses, fellers,’ he called, ‘thar’s Santa Claus.’ And then, with irreproachable nose tilted high he leaned against the window, hoping that Santa Claus would favorably note him.

One night, when we were all at supper, Santa Clause left a birthday cake for himself on the living room table. No other explanation could account for the mysterious frosted cake loaded with candles, and exclaiming on its top in red letters: ‘Merry Christmas!’ Every night the baby Christmas tree was lighted, when the children danced around it, singing Christmas songs and blowing kisses to it.

The day before Christmas each one of our four households carried its baby tree to some dear old neighbor’s. If you could know how those trees are cherished! Sometimes they are kept through a whole year, treasured as a joy even when the needles have dropped off. To one old lady, living three miles off at the backside of a mountain in a dark little windowless house, the children carried a window — a common barn sash left from our building operations. ‘Why,’ she said, ‘why, I wouldn’t take ten dollars for my window. I’ve had to set in the dark by the fire cold or windy days when the door had to be shut, and I couldn’t see nothin’. There haint much to see here, way off the road, at the head of the holler as we be but hit’s mighty lonesome in the dark on a winter’s day.’ Then, carrying her little window gently in her arms, she laid it on the bed in the one safe place in the room. ‘Lord. I wouldn’t take a nigger baby for my winder,’ she cried.

[Racist remarks such as this one, are all too commonly found in narratives of both the School and community in the early years of the Institution, as they were in much of the literature of the day. Reaching out to those in isolation — “… those that sit in darkness,” was perceived to be a critical mission of many workers in the settlement movement.

For those settlement workers in the rural Appalachians, a common belief was pervasive — that the people of Appalachia were of “pure Anglo-Saxon” stock and that they represented long-lost ancestors that could be “raised -up” through education and the re-introduction of traditional English and Scots-Irish rituals and traditions. Christmas, May Day, and other pageants and rituals were often used to re-introduce and to underscore the connection of the mountain people to their Anglo-Saxon heritage. This folk-heritage belief and crusade was attractive to many workers of the first part of the twentieth-century.

Today, in our multi-cultural world, such views are those of people “who sit in darkness”, no matter their education, wealth, or status. These narrow views do not, however, negate the well-meaning intentions and results of these early social service crusaders. The results of their good work in the areas of general education and health and health literacy were profound and lasting. The need for intervention was critical but the balancing act of social service and social engineer, was sometimes uneven.

The fine line between “work” as something irreplaceable and unique, and “production” as something that conforms to a common product, a nature or a production, is a very delicate process and one that continues at the School, even today. Letters, such as this one to ‘Friends’ of the School, had a broad appeal and kept programs alive at the School and helped to “produce” new ones as times dictated. Early letters to family and friends are far more candid than the letters to board members and supporters and often reflect personally held beliefs that stand in deep contrast to the mantras of settlement work and to the beliefs of the populations they served.

The social space in which these Christmas events took place is not a thing among many things or a product of some thing. It is its own set of knowledge that subsumes relationships and products and beliefs. It is a process that still continues as the School struggles to work with populations that are impoverished and illiterate and deep within the valleys and hollows of Appalachia but also works to reach all those “who sit in darkness” with regard to their environment, no matter if the source of that obscurity is in deeply rooted urban life-styles or in denial of climate change.]

The narrative continues:

Was this the sweetest incident of Christmas, the carrying of light to those that sit in darkness? Or was it the caroling of the boys at four o’clock in the morning, singing through the dark from house to house, “Hark, the herald angels sing,’ and ‘God rest you, merry gentlemen.’ To the small ones of course the dearest moment came when their stockings were handed to them, and they drew out barley candy and oranges, a French harp or a doll, — some trick the like of which had not come to their ken before. Table manners at breakfast were suspended while whistle and harps and laughter and ‘Christmas gift,’ perceptibly reduced our daily consumption of oatmeal.

Of course, there was a beautiful community tree, and how peaceable a time we had at it you already know from the first sentence of this letter. Some five hundred people came, among them an old lady sixty-nine years old, who had started before day to come clear across Pine Mountain. ‘I’ve never seed a tree,’ she said, ‘and I allowed thar mought be a pretty one the tree for an old woman sixty-nine years old, what had ever seed one.’

Silent and spell-bound, we all watched the progress of the beautiful Nativity Scene, which had the simplicity and sweetness of an early mystery play. Then Santa Clause came tramping through the woods. We hailed him with joy, we laughed at his jokes and we had a “big time” flinging confetti at him and blowing balloons in his honor. You, who treasure your Christmas ornaments from year to year with wise economy, do not blame us that we gave most of ours away to the mothers who looked so wistfully at the radiant wonders on the tree, and who carried the tinsel and the balls home to brighten lives and homes already too grey.

I cannot write you of all the bits of joy, that pieced together made Christmas so lovely a mosaic. It seemed to us that the wealth of beauty that centuries have given the Christmas festival was all flung into our laps. We want you to share with us the most beautiful Christmas we ever knew, and then we want you to share with us the shrinking of spirit we feel as we think of the months from April to August, when we go through the profoundest anxiety about money.

The School is too large now with its seventy children, to be kept in cold storage through the pleasant Spring and Summer, when givers forget that there are wolves howling at poor folks’ doors. Now, while it is cold and poverty seems bleakest, will you not help us to build up our annual income to carry us through the year? We want five hundred givers of one dollar a year, five hundred of two dollars a year, and five hundred who will give five dollars a year. If you are already a subscriber, won’t you try to find somebody who will fill out the enclosed card? We will tell them of our children, and not send merely a cold receipt. They shall hear of our six-year-old who wanted to ‘do somethin’ for his country’ with a penny he earned carrying kindling for twenty minutes in his play-time; or the little girl who wrote Santa Clause for two tooth-brushes — one for herself and one for her little sister at home.

We workers who for weeks last Summer faced the question of breaking up school and sending the children home and saw our bank account drop to one cent, feel that another such experience will put us in the class the preachers pray for, ‘those whose heads are abloomin’ fer the grave.’ Please help us find another Rock of Gibraltar, — an annual giver.

Sincerely yours,
Ethel de Long


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THANKSGIVING AT PINE MOUNTAIN SETTLEMENT

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Thanksgiving Day

Excerpts from Narratives by Evelyn Wells and an Unknown Worker


 

THANKSGIVING DAY, NOVEMBER 1915

[*The following selection is taken from the notes of Evelyn Wells for her History of Pine Mountain Settlement School 1913 -1928 (unpublished).

A beautiful day. We started out with a nice breakfast party for the visitors from Hindman, at the Pole House, and by the time things were cleared up it was time to start up to the woods. What a procession: every child carrying some kind of bucket or pan of food. We established ourselves, some 60 strong, in a lovely glade about a mile from here which the children call the Fairy Forest, it’s so full of moss and soft grasses and pretty rocks and laurel. We had three big fires, one for the coffee, and two for the squirrels, which we toasted – roasted – on long sticks, while the children played in the woods. When the squirrels were done, we sat around and had pork, squirrel, sandwiches, jelly, pumpkin pie and coffee. It was so warm that we didn’t even need sweaters.

Then a very simple, lovely Thanksgiving Service. A hymn or two, and the story of the first Thanksgiving, told by Munroe, age 11, on the spur of the moment, very simply and dramatically. Then Miss de Long talked for a little while, using St. Francis’ Prayer to the Sun as a starting point. She certainly can touch and hold every kind of person, and there was nary a one of the sixty mountain people, children, or workers, that didn’t get much from what she said. We ended with “Come, ye thankful people, come”, and out in the woods I suddenly realized what the line, “Come to God’s own temple” meant, especially to people who have never been inside a church. Then the children sang “Under the Greenwood Tree”, some of them, a little way off, echoing the last line as if from another part of the forest. They call it the Robin Hood song.

Afterwards the little girls ran sets, and the boys had a shooting match with bows and arrows. The problem was to prevent Miss Cobb (of Hindman) from joining the party for Jack’s Gap, for she is delicate and won’t admit it. But finally Uncle William decoyed her away to show her some interesting trees, and we made our escape. Jack’s Gap is the most beautiful place in the world, and the lights and colors at this time of year are so soft. We got back to Miss Pettit‘s for supper – TURKEY – and a nice evening. The children sang ballads and Miss Pettit was in fine form, with many stories of the beginnings of Hindman and Pine Mountain. When I got back to Far House, there was another party going on. Several mountain young people, one of them with a banjo. They are perfectly content to sit and pick the whole evening the tunes that sound exactly alike.

When they sing to the banjo, there’s a long monotonous accompaniment and now and then a line of the ballad thrown in in a dreary nasal voice, and when the theme is thrilling as it usually is, you just sit on edge of your chair waiting to see what’s going to happen in the next line.

Friday afternoon we took the Hindman horses out for exercise. I rode the least “feisty” one, a nice little mare with a really stylish gait, and realized for the first time what bad nags I’d been riding. My, but I’d love to have a good horse at my disposal here, it makes riding a different thing.


By 1927 the School had institutionalized the celebration of Thanksgiving and many of the students also were accustomed to celebrating the day with their families. In this account by a worker at the School, a cultural tug of war is evident in the exchange that occurred on this holiday:

Thanksgiving morning one of our big boys asked if he could go home for the day. “You know I like to be with my folks,” he said, adding a second later, “but I like to be here too. I’d rather be here than at home.” Then, anxiously, so as not to have his meaning mistaken, “You know of course I like to see my folks, but you see my mother keeps house country-wise, and I like keeping house city-wise.” It was the only way the lad could think of to express his new views of order and cleanliness acquired since school began this fall!

Apparently the worker believed the School to be the purveyor of “city-ways” and that the city offered lessons in cleanliness and order that “country-ways” did not. The worker’s cultural tug of war seems as unresolved as was that of the student. [The name of the author is not known at this time.]


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