Shirley Noe Swiesz
Well, I had a lovely birthday on Sunday. It was also my daughter’s birthday…I spent my 31st birthday in Alaska, giving birth! Several people called me this week, including the Cat Lady. I will give you more info on her next week. I received an e-mail the other day from Shirley Blair, Butch’s wife. Thanks for the kind words! I have so many good memories of the Blair family…just like the Cornett family. They were such good people. There was a sweet girl named Alice who lived on the hill near the Tuttle’s in Hiram. I can’t remember her last name but I do remember that my brother Jr. (Jake) made her mother a magazine rack out of an apple crate (or two), to earn a few dollars spending money. He was probably about 16 at the time. My dad was a good carpenter but the person who did the most carpentry work in Hiram had to have been Dennis Hall. He worked on every house in that community, I think. He never lacked for work. Dennis was my Aunt Nancy’s son and I mentioned before how he was a great fisherman. Roland Cornett and I spent a good bit of time discussing the merits of fishing, the other night. Another thing that the river bank was used for in Hiram, should come as no surprise to you guys around my age…it was a great gambling spot! Dennis and others who are too numerous to mention (and would probably prefer that I did not do so!) would go there on Friday nights and spend the entire weekend fishing and gambling, with a few swigs of moonshine thrown in for good measure! They would build up a good fire, fry fish and potatoes and enjoy life to the fullest! I am sure that if my mother would have allowed it I would have been there taking notes! Think of all the good stories I could have told! The riverbank, after dark, was strictly off limits for us girls, though. I loved the riverbank though…I liked to go right to the edge and walk barefooted in the mud and I would spend hours catching tiny catfish in a jar. Their were hundreds of them in ‘schools’ and they were perfect little specimens. I think that as kids we loved to catch things, fish, butterflies, bugs, June bugs, green snakes, pollywog, frogs, and craw dads are among the few. We would put special things in our pockets. One time a little girl (whose name I will not mention,) came to our house when we lived in the Morris Holler. It was a bit chilly outside so she got up close to the stove to warm up. After a while a very strange odor came from her and mom asked what was in her pocket. She said, “nothing but an egg or two”. She reached down into her pocket only to find out that the eggs had broken and a loud stench came from the obviously rotten eggs. It is safe to say that mom sent her home to change clothes!
Do you remember eating mulberries from the wild trees found in our neck of the woods? Wow! They were so good! We would go home with mouths stained and tummies hurting from an overload of those fat berries!
When I was growing up practically every house had a plot with a garden in it. It might not be big, but it would be enough for some lettuce and onions and tomatoes and a cucumber or two. There was never a time that my mom and dad did not have a large garden. If they did not have room, then they would ask to rent a plot and usually someone would tell them to just go ahead and plant it and then just save them a ‘mess or two’ of something. I remember that they canned, dried, holed up, sold, and gave away vegetables all summer long and still had too much. Mom always canned enough for us children after we left home, to take back with us. Their gardens were truly works of art.
I have almost finished reading The Black Heart Book III, The Fourth Generation by Rosezelle Boggs-Qualls. If you have read any of her books then let me suggest that you really should! Rosezelle did not begin her writing career until she was in her 70’s, when she came back to Ky to live after being gone for many years. Let me tell you a bit about her: ‘from the rugged mountains of Southeastern Kentucky comes one of the twenty-first century’s most powerful writers. Her written word will both educate and entertain you. She grew up in Sunshine, a small coal mining village just south of Harlan, Ky. A born tomboy, she spent her days exploring the trails, streams, caves, and abandoned mines of the Cumberland, Big Black, and Pine Mountains. For high school, Rozelle attended the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, Ky. As an infant, due to a childhood illness, she had a progressive hearing impairment, but received her first hearing aid at the age of thirteen. In 1946, she met and married William A Buck Qualls. Her husband is totally blind.
When they were first married they lived in Cawood, Ky. However, in 1947, Harlan was still a depressed area and in order to find employment, they were forced to leave the mountains they loved and move to Dayton, Ohio.
Rosezelle earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social work at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. Her graduate work in Applied Behavioral Science was also at Wright State. Fro thirty-seven years she was employed in the child welfare field in both the Dayton and Akron, Ohio areas. After her retirement in 2004, she and Buck came back home to relocate in Harlan and now live in Cawood, Kentucky. They have one son, Tom and three grandchildren.
In 2003, Rosezelle was given the prestigious Wright State University Social Worker of the Year award and the Wright State University, Collage of Liberal Arts Outstanding Alumna Award.
Also, Rosezelle served a six year appointment by Bob Taft to the Ohio Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities 1998-2004. She served four years by appointment to the Ky. Governor’s Council on Independent Living for People with Disabilities. She is serving her fourth term as Chair for the Southeastern Kentucky Regional Pathfinders for Independent Living whose offices are in Harlan.
In 2007 she organized and served three terms as president of the Harlan Writers’ Guild. In 2009, she served as Chair of the coordinating committee for the 25th annual Festival of the Mountain Masters. Non-profit organizations participating in the event were th Harlan Historical Society, The Harlan Writer’s Guild, and Pathfinders for Independent Living for People with Disabilities.
In 2010, Rosezelle, with the cooperation of the Harlan Tourism Commission, was the founder and is serving as president of the National Hall of Fame for Mountain Artisans. The National Hall of Fame for Mountain Artisans is permanently housed in the Harlan Center, South Main Street, Harlan, Kentucky.’
I enjoyed all of Rosezelle’s Black Heart books, but I especially enjoyed the newest one. She brings the Harlan that many of us remember, with busy streets and stores, to this latest book, as we walk each page in our memory. If I had to choose someone that I would like to emulate, I think that it would have to be Rosezelle. She keeps going and like Thomas Jefferson, age is not a factor to accomplishing what she sets out to do. I think that is a wonderful asset for anyone to have. I think that some of you will recognize many of the people that she mentions in her book, but even if you don’t recognize anyone you will recognize the way of life that was so familiar to the ones born in that time frame.
I do admire many of the older men and women whom I often come in contact with and another such person is Miss Bea. I am not going to mention her last name because she does not parade her age around and I want to tell you that she was born in 1925. She still takes college courses and she is very active for her age. She is the one that I mentioned once who said, “Why, I don’t sit down real often for if I do, I just have to get right back up!” She has a lot of stories about Harlan in the old days. It was said that her daddy, who was a business man in Harlan, once held the mortgage on the court house. Miss Bea always talks so good about everyone. She finds a silver lining in the worst of situations and perhaps that has a lot to do with her being so positive about life. I wish I was more like that…I put everything into a story form in my mind and I use adjectives to describe people in the same way that I do when I put a story on paper and it is not always good…
Well, I hope you are doing well and looking forward to the Dogwood and Redbud trees blooming and all the little wild mountain flowers coming up in the spring. I hope you are looking forward to planting a garden and looking for dry land fish…I hope you are looking forward to life in the mountains. May the good Lord watch over you for the rest of the winter and give you hope for springtime…give me a call @ (606) 909-1017 or email me at email@example.com or write me @ Shirley Swiesz 204 Ivy St. Harlan, Ky. 40831