On May 5, 2019, Sara McClung interviewed Warren McClung at Lenore in Mingo County, West Virginia. What follows is a transcription of the interview:
Okay, my name is Sara McClung and I am interviewing my dad, Warren McClung. So let’s just dive right into it. When and where were you born?
I was born in Montgomery, West Virginia. Larry Memorial Hospital in 1957. April 15.
Okay. Who were your parents?
Jessie and Aubrey McClung.
Where were you raised?
Uh, mostly on Scarlet Road on Trace Creek here in Mingo County. We moved here when I was three or four.
Okay, tell me about your earliest memories as a young child.
Wow, uh, I really uh don’t know uh how to answer that. I mean, I remember a little bit about living in Fayette county. Not a whole lot. I remember the house we lived in and I remember when we packed up and made the move to Mingo County. Uh and pretty much I mean just a semi-normal kid growing up, I guess.
Okay, tell me about your experiences in grade school. What schools did you attend? Who were your favorite teachers? What were your favorite subjects?
Well, I went to Myrtle Grade School. Started there in 1963. I guess my favorite teacher was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Merle Tingler. And I don’t remember liking any particular subject more than others. Maybe science. I guess maybe science was my favorite.
Okay, tell me about your experiences in junior high or high school. Where did you attend? Who were your favorite teachers? Favorite subjects? Or did you play sports?
Well, I didn’t play any sports. I went to Lenore High School from the seventh to the twelfth. Don’t remember any favorite subjects there either. I guess probably I guess my favorite teacher was Jack Smith.
Okay, what kind of chores did you do as a young person?
Well, I got the coal in for the heat, cut wood, fed the chickens, helped out in the garden.
Okay, what did you like to do for fun when you were young, what did you like to do for fun?
Well, we used to play softball in the bottom down at the forks of the hollow at the Estepp Cemetery. In the fall, I loved to squirrel hunt. Practically stayed in the woods squirrel hunting when I wasn’t in school or having to do something else.
Okay, what do you remember about the neighborhood where you grew up?
Aww, it was a great place to grow up. I mean, everybody knew everybody. You could leave your doors unlocked. We’d get out, bunch of, you know, the boys my age, we’d get out on Sunday and you know we’d walk down the holler, play in the creek. This, that, and the other. The people sitting out on their porches, they would invite you to come in and get something to eat. But that’s sure not like that today.
No. Who were your neighbors?
Who were our neighbors? My nearest neighbor down the road was Henry Gillman. His son Darrell was one of my best friends. Opal and Mike Ooten lived up the road from us, and my grandma lived right across just right next door.
Okay, tell me about your career. Did you work here locally? What did you do? Did you move far away for work?
I’ve always been here, been here locally. I worked for two different tree trimming companies. That’s my first jobs. And then I got into construction in the coal business and then later on became a surface miner.
Do you have any hobbies?
Yeah, like to hunt, tinker around on firearms, reload ammunition, work on, well like to four-wheel, love to go four-wheelin’ and of course I work on my own stuff I guess you can call that a hobby. I do the majority of my own mechanic work.
Tell me about your grandparents. Who were they? What did they look like? How was their personality? Where did they live?
Well, I never got to meet my grandparents on the McClung side. My grandpa Buzzard, yeah that’s a real name….my grandpa Buzzard got killed before I was born but my grandmother lived next door, she was a sweet old lady, and always she fixed some of the best biscuits I’ve ever ate. She lived to be 96 years old and unlike a lot of older people she kept her mind right up until the time she passed away.
What kind of work did your grandparents do?
They were, I don’t know if I know… My grandmother didn’t… I don’t know if my grandpa ever held a public job. If he did, it was probably in the mines. But you got to remember, back then people had farms. They grew what they ate, they raised their own beef, hogs, chickens. They had to work hard to make it, but they were pretty much self sufficient.
Do you know any family stories that go back past your grandparents?
Stories, just wild tales probably, not really anything.
Do you know how to do any of the old customs like farm, tend to farm animals, make quilts, gather ginseng, and so forth?
I can dig ginseng, and I can grow a garden. Quilting, I don’t believe I’d do any good at that.
Do you remember any old ghost stories?
Well yeah, I do. Where I grew up, our ghost was—nobody knew what it was, but it was supposed to holler and carry on at night. They called it ‘eight toes’ because it supposed to have an eight-toed track. I never did see it, never did hear it. But you know, that was a real popular story when I was growing up.
Okay, tell me anything you would like about your neighborhood or hometown. General thoughts? Who ran stores and what kind of stores?
Well, where I lived it was kindly up the head of the holler. Couple people had little stores, but they didn’t sell much, mostly candy and stuff to us kids. We’d gather pop bottles or whatever and sell to go get candy and stuff. One of the stores—I can’t mention any of the names and I won’t—but one of the stores was a front for a moonshine operation. But we will just let it go at that.
Do you know anything about Native Americans in the area? Have you heard stories about them or found arrowheads, mounds, or burial sites?
Well, no not really. Not where I grew up. I mean, there was the burial mound at Millers Creek that held up the construction of 119 for a while. Archaeologists came in here and excavated it and really made some interesting finds from what I understand and what I read.
Tell me anything you would like about the coal industry.
I’d like to see it pick up. I mean, we’re working now, doing good, but that’s—you know it’s up and down all the time. I’d like to see it level off and stay steady and I don’t see any way that this country can do without coal because it’s used in so many different ways. I mean, it’s not just its not just for electricity.
What do you remember about the Korean War? Did anyone you know serve in the war?
Well, the Korean War took place before I was born, but my oldest brother served in the Korean war. He was in the air force: the copilot of a bomber.
What about national politicians such as JFK who visited the area? If you know anything about them, who was your favorite president and why?
Who was my favorite president? I don’t really know, probably Ronald Reagan. I mean, he was straight to the point and didn’t take any crap and I remember when I was in the first grade when John F. Kennedy got shot. That’s one thing that I remember from you know early in my childhood was when president Kennedy got shot.
Tell me about his assassination and what you remember.
Well, I was only in the first grade and it would’ve been… I don’t remember exactly if we had come back from lunch you know our noon hour or whether we had came back from recess which they don’t have that now but when I was in school we had a fifteen minute recess in the morning where we could go out and play and carry on and one in the evening. But anyway, we had just came back in from something. The teacher was not in the room yet and you know a bunch of six-year-olds in a room. You know, you could imagine. I mean everybody there was all kinds of noise in there and when the teacher walked in the look on her face—just all the kids got quiet because from the look on her face something was wrong and she told us that you know President Kennedy was dead, that somebody had shot him. Now, I can remember that just like it was yesterday.
Do you have any knowledge of well-known local people or events like Devil Anse Hatfield, the Matewan Massacre, Sid Hatfield, Don Chafin, the Battle of Blair Mountain, Jack Dempsey, Blaze Starr, or any train wrecks or mining disasters?
Well, I have actually met Blaze Starr. She was at Cheech’s Restaurant. It was several years ago, she came in organizing a—they were organizing a class reunion for her class and she was in Cheech’s. I actually met her. The rest of them, Devil Anse Hatfield and all them, just what I have read and what I’ve been told. Natural disasters, I mean mining disasters, I remember the Farmington Number 9 up in Fairmont that was in ‘68 and of course Upper Big Branch in 2010. There were several others, but Farmington and Upper Big Branch were the worst.
Did anyone in your family play a musical instrument or sing? What did they play? How did they play?
Well, my uncle Tom Buzzard lived up in Pennsylvania. He was in a country band. He played the guitar and sang. But I do not you know remember the name of his band.
Do you have any special holiday memories?
No, not really.
Do you recall any of the old words or words that were pronounced differently by old timers?
Well, there’s lots of words that’s pronounced differently by old timers. People still pronounce them that way. Some words I guess are not even words, but you know it’s part of the Appalachian culture, I guess.
Did you ever sleep in a log cabin? What do you remember about it?
Cold. It was cold. That’s what I remember the most it was in the winter time.
What do you remember about the Vietnam War? Did anyone you know serve in the war?
I know several, several Vietnam veterans. I remember it was going on all through school and it was pretty close to when it ended, I was pretty close to being the age to go. We all had to register for the draft back then on or before your 18th birthday and when I went up, we could register at the school at the guidance office and I went up to register when I was supposed to and Mr. Dickenson, he was the guidance counselor, he informed me that they wasn’t going to register at the birthday: they was going to have a registration for everybody at a certain date. I believe it was January 1, but before I had to register they cut the draft out, so I never did have to register for military service.
Okay, that concludes the interview… Any final comments?
I hope you get a good grade for this.
From Southern’s Appalachian Oral History Collection, Williamson Campus, Williamson, WV. Submitted by student Sara McClung.