January 28, 1938 – Eleanor continues to write about her trip to Kentucky, specifically to Jackson to dedicate the new high school.
When I was growing up, my dad would tell me stories about his childhood in Harrisburg, Illinois. He was born in 1944, and raised by his mother and grandmother. I heard all his stories repeatedly during my life, but never grew tired of them even though I knew them by heart. I suspect it had as much to do with his voice and the look in his eyes when he told them. You see, when he was a boy, he had to walk 3 miles in the snow to school … “up hill both ways”, he would say.
Of course, when I grew older, I knew this was a stretch of the truth. He wanted me to appreciate what I had growing up. That said, kids who grew up in the mountains very nearly had to walk up hill both ways. They sometimes would walk 10 or 12 miles from, home to school and back, and that didn’t include miles of a bus route added to it. There was no transportation save your own feet or a horse or mule if you were blessed enough to have one. Education wasn’t something that you could take for granted then like we do now.
Eleanor visited Jackson, Kentucky to dedicate Breathitt County High School. In actuality, this was the second high school for this area. The first had been located in a town not far from Jackson, but the area was in a bit of a boom as a result of the logging industry. The new school was established to accommodate the growing community.
Eleanor writes about a young woman she met while visiting the University of Kentucky the previous day … a woman raised in the mountains who had been through high school, along with her 11 siblings. Some even had college degrees. That was quite the accomplishment for parents and children in 1938. Her position at the University was to organize radio listening posts. “She goes into the communities, makes friends with the people, tells them about [radio] programs, gets them to come in and listen, and guides them in their choices.” She walked a lot, too … she would take the bus or train as far as she could, then walk the rest of the way, upwards of 20 miles, to reach any given community and organize the posts.
Imagine a time when we were lucky to have one radio in all of a community or even groups of communities. Now imagine what it would be like to hear the radio for the first time. That was life in the mountains.