This is how Mc Roberts appeared when first built.

"Daddy's Hands"


"McRoberts is a northeast Letcher county town located on the headwaters of the North  Fork of the Kentucky River. It was established in 1912 by the Consolidation Coal Corp.and named for Samuel McRoberts, a banker with ties to the company. The McRoberts  post office opened in 1912."--Kentucky Atlas and Gazette

Mom's family can be traced back to the original settlers of Kentucky.My dad's family were "newcomers',arriving in 1917.

A Town called McRoberts,Kentucky

Maybe it is growing older that makes one appreciate their roots.I think we all have special memories that helped shape us as children as to what kind of person we would become as adults.I know that so many of the values we hold dear came from our family and the dear people of McRoberts.It is said that we three girls are  giving people.We take no credit in that.It was taught to us as children from our  family and from seeing the true spirit of giving from the people.

Each town in American has its own special traditions and this town is no
exception.Like all small communities where everyone knows everyone,the
gossip,the disagreements existed.But,the one unique thing that stands out in my mind is the willingness to put aside those differences when a family was in need.

With the main coal mine in McRoberts,I learned as a child the sound of the mine whistle meant there was a cave in or someone was really hurt.The women would come out into the streets  and with a feeling of dread , headed over to the mine with the question of whose husband it would be.A silence hung heavy in the air as the name or names were given.I'm certain there was a feeling of relief that is was someone else's husband  mixed with the sorrow  that a husband and father had been lost.It surely had to be a time of conflict to deal with those powerful emotions.Relief mixed with a feeling of guilt for being happy their husband was safe while another woman cried.The coal miner's family lived with the dread of that whistle each and every day.

During those long days after someone's death,the women in town cooked
massive amounts of food to take to the victim's home.It was our custom to have the body lie in state at their home.While some would think this a morbid custom,that is the furthest thing from the truth.That person was "brought home" and a vigil was held until the funeral.The family who was trying to cope with their loss didn't have to feel alone.Any housekeeping,cooking or other needs were automatically done by the townspeople.Friends and neighbors of the family attended to the grave being dug,giving their gift of caring in this special way.Homes were opened to people who needed a place to stay if they were from out of town.

This was a time when no one was ever made to feel like a stranger.Through the long night before the funeral,people came and went,speaking in hushed tones out of respect and remembering the deceased one's life.When I read of "wakes" being a drunken party,it makes me wish that the reverence of these people in McRoberts could be seen.It is a time of respect,a time of celebrating the life that once was.A person who viewed it as an excuse to party would have been scorned for their disrespect.

For those who couldn't afford individual flowers for the service,they knew the coins they donated to a town flower arrangement was as appreciated as the most expensive floral arrangement.It wasn't a time of different colors or nationalities;all gave willingly,knowing  this act of love would be returned someday when they lost a family member.At my own mother's funeral,my late husband had never witnessed such caring.When the quartet sang,tears filled his eyes at the sound of their lovely voices,and he saw the tribute that was being paid to my father and us girls.He saw the neighbors and my friends sit with me all during that dark night before Mom was buried.It made a lasting impression on him for the rest of his brief life.Bobby loved McRoberts and brought me home as often as possible.

There were times when a family might be in a struggle to feed their family because of illness.A quiet ,discreet way of helping was utilized in McRoberts.A cardboard box would be put in plain view in the local grocery store.No public banner was necessary to shout "look what we're doing to help".People just bought an extra box or can of food and placed it in the box.When it was full,the person who needed it had food for their family but their self-respect intact.

We were taught the poorest,shabbiest person on earth has the self value and esteem as those who have had the better things in life.This one valuable lesson has enabled me to have friends of every economic and ethnic background.My life would have been the poorer without this lesson being learned in McRoberts.Until this very day,when I see someone being a snob,I can't help but wonder how impressed God is going to be.We’ re all His children.Daddy bought us good clothes, but I also had my share of feedsack dresses before the unions made the mine owners start paying fair wages for the backbreaking labor.In fact,until a few years ago,I still made everything I wore even though the expense of clothes then was no problem.Homemade to me was quality--not some name brand that offered shoddy workmanship with a snob value attached.

Pride in my own home and being a decent person came from my parents and from the examples of so many of the people I knew as a young girl.It took a lot of hard work with the coal dust flying around,but the wash hung out on the lines was white.Instead of making excuses,these women worked long and hard to make sure their husbands and children were dressed well and kept clean.Mom constantly told us girls that being the poorest person on earth didn't justify dirt.Her belief was as long as there was soap and water,you had no excuses.She truly believed it was a sin in it’s own class if a person didn’t keep a baby “smelling sweet”. We thank you,Mom.You taught us well.

The men worked long,hard hours in the darkness of the mines .They weren't afraid of the backbreaking work that would destroy their lungs in later years.To provide for their families was their goal and they achieved that goal many times over.It was with a sense of worth they provided this country with the much needed  fuel to keep the economy alive .Loretta Lynn said it all when she sang."I'm proud to be a coal miner's daughter".You can't say it any better than that.

These are the mountain people I knew.The ones that exist in old movies came from the ignorance of directors and producers.Not one movie portraying these people ever would have been made had they taken the time to visit one town in Appalachia.I remember a photographer from either Look or Life magazine came to my hometown,went to a wrecking yard and the photographs were presented as being indicative of  the entire town.That is the ignorance that has helped perpetuate the  negative and false portrayal of Appalachia and “hillbillies”.That in itself is a derogatory term,but we all learned to laugh about it.We know who and what we are.The joke was always on the person who felt superior by using that term in “classifying” people.Am I a hillbilly?You bet I am.

I was the original "John Boy" ,dreaming of the day when I would write a book about the mountains that are so much a part of me.That dream never came true so this is my way of sharing that dream nevertheless.When I close my eyes,I can still remember that huge golden moon peeking over the mountaintop,with sihoulettes of trees gleaming.The moaning of the trees on a windy night,the white stillness of a snowfall and the echoes of a day long ago when Mom called from the backporch,"You girls come on home now--it's gittin' dark" will live for the remainder of our days.

 A coal miner's daughters,


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