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Old 12-29-2007, 02:56 PM
 
52 posts, read 140,171 times
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I'm probably going to ruffle some feathers with this post but that's not my intent. I'm just trying to understand this aversion to Eastern Kentucky that a number of posters feel.

I've lived in Wisconsin all my life, within 50 miles of where I was born and raised. I never felt a need to leave because I had a job, a home and I enjoyed spending time with my parents, brothers and sisters. I never felt this great need "to better myself" and move to a larger city because living in a larger city doesn't make me better. It's what's inside of me. I'm an intelligent woman with good values and feel my priorities are in the right place. The northern part of Wisconsin is somewhat deserted and I'm sure there are people who wonder why anyone would live there. It's very beautiful but slow paced and jobs are harder to come by. I have no desire to live there but I don't feel I'm better than the people who choose to make that area their home. We all make our own choices based on what is best for each of us.

Yes, there are people in the eastern part of Kentucky who are on welfare, are lazy and on drugs. Are there none of these people in Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Hopkinsville or any of the larger cities? Has anyone ever considered that maybe these people stay there because that's where their families are? Maybe they like the slower pace and the beauty all around them.

When I move to Kentucky in June, I plan to live in the central part of the state. I'm basing that decision on the fact that there are more jobs in that area and I have to work. It's not because I think the people in the eastern part of the state are stupid, lazy and unfriendly. I know that I could make friends with people there because that's how I am. You have to reach out to others when you move, regardless of where it is.

I really would appreciate input on this from all parts of the state as I'm trying to understand this whole thing. Kentucky is known for it's friendly people and
this aversion to the eastern part of the state just doesn't fit in with that.
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Old 01-02-2008, 12:41 PM
 
Location: North Alabama
767 posts, read 1,846,230 times
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I'll take a shot at it. Economics has been a big driver. The best land has always been in the Bluegrass area and westward. Merge that factor with availability of river transportation in those areas and it is apparent they enjoyed greater prosperity than Eastern Kentucky as a result. Richer people almost always seem to demonstrate some disdain for the less well off, even if it is masked somewhat by a condescending paternalism exhibited by the more enlightened among them. The poor quite naturally return this disdain and sometimes temper it to a finer edge with anger. Not a recipe for peace, tranquility, and mutual respect.

The residents of Eastern Kentucky were also relatively isolated from the rest of Kentucky until the first part of the 20th century due to the diffficulty associated with transporting goods and people over the oftentimes impassable and treacherous terrain. Railroads provided the first reliable means of ready passage for most Eastern Kentuckians, and railroads were slow to come into the mountains because of the massive amounts of capital required to contruct them. If the nation hadn't also needed massive amounts of lumber and coal in the the latter half of the 19th century, even the railroads might not have been built. When they were built, it was usually by Northern industrialists intent only upon removing Eastern Kentucky's natural resources at the cheapest cost possible. Consequently, much of Eastern Kentucky was stripped of it natural resources with no attempts made to mitigate the damage to the land, leaving a barren and infertile region in the wake of this relatively short period of employment and prosperity. The region returned to a pattern of subsistence farming, with only its eroded and depleted soil to sustain it. The poor literally got poorer.

Finally, do an online search for "Bloody Breathitt" or "Kentucky Feuds" and settle back for some fascinating reading. If I recall correctly, the State had to send the State Guard to Jackson twice in the 1910s to restore civil order in that city. Flatlanders literally feared the mountain people as a result of the stubborn (and sometimes fierce) independence and lawlessness exhibited for many years in parts of Eastern Kentucky.

That's my short (and perhaps ill-informed) take on the "aversion" you speak of. I await the comments of those more enlightened.
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Old 01-02-2008, 01:46 PM
 
Location: East Tennessee and Atlanta
3,667 posts, read 8,769,891 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nalabama View Post
I'll take a shot at it. Economics has been a big driver. The best land has always been in the Bluegrass area and westward. Merge that factor with availability of river transportation in those areas and it is apparent they enjoyed greater prosperity than Eastern Kentucky as a result. Richer people almost always seem to demonstrate some disdain for the less well off, even if it is masked somewhat by a condescending paternalism exhibited by the more enlightened among them. The poor quite naturally return this disdain and sometimes temper it to a finer edge with anger. Not a recipe for peace, tranquility, and mutual respect.

The residents of Eastern Kentucky were also relatively isolated from the rest of Kentucky until the first part of the 20th century due to the diffficulty associated with transporting goods and people over the oftentimes impassable and treacherous terrain. Railroads provided the first reliable means of ready passage for most Eastern Kentuckians, and railroads were slow to come into the mountains because of the massive amounts of capital required to contruct them. If the nation hadn't also needed massive amounts of lumber and coal in the the latter half of the 19th century, even the railroads might not have been built. When they were built, it was usually by Northern industrialists intent only upon removing Eastern Kentucky's natural resources at the cheapest cost possible. Consequently, much of Eastern Kentucky was stripped of it natural resources with no attempts made to mitigate the damage to the land, leaving a barren and infertile region in the wake of this relatively short period of employment and prosperity. The region returned to a pattern of subsistence farming, with only its eroded and depleted soil to sustain it. The poor literally got poorer.

Finally, do an online search for "Bloody Breathitt" or "Kentucky Feuds" and settle back for some fascinating reading. If I recall correctly, the State had to send the State Guard to Jackson twice in the 1910s to restore civil order in that city. Flatlanders literally feared the mountain people as a result of the stubborn (and sometimes fierce) independence and lawlessness exhibited for many years in parts of Eastern Kentucky.

That's my short (and perhaps ill-informed) take on the "aversion" you speak of. I await the comments of those more enlightened.
Good post. My mom's from Eastern Kentucky, and growing up we visited a couple times each year. It was a depressing, depressing place. It was so backward--and I lived in East Tennessee (which was already considered backward!).
I think it is a combination of poverty, unfriendly terrain, and as you mentioned, stubborness. My mom's family is super stubborn. Poor as dirt growing up, but good people. Narrow-minds, but again, good people. So, it all boils down to what makes you happy and your choices in where you want to live that makes you happy.
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Old 01-02-2008, 05:08 PM
 
Location: Franklin Co.
70 posts, read 188,890 times
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I think history will give you a good answer to your question.

Back in 1968, Robert Kennedy set out on a "poverty tour" which included several stops in Eastern Kentucky. Segments of this tour was televised to the nation during the evening news. They did interviews with local people, saw the housing situations firsthand, visited one room schoolhouses and even showed some of the coal mining effects on the region.

It created quite a stigma for Kentucky as a whole. Once an area has been given a label such as this, it's very difficult to overcome it in many ways. People still joke around about the hillbillies who live in Kentucky even today due to past "labels" placed on the people and region.

I'm not saying those conditions still don't exist there because I know they do. Most folks who live in that area of the state do not have many job opportunities except for coal mining. Sure, there are some people who leave the area in order to have a better life but once families end up getting locked into certain situations it's hard to break out.

There is no doubt you have poverty, drug use, abuse, etc.... no matter where you go in this entire nation. It's just that some places get stuck with a label due to whatever reason and it's darn hard to get away from it later on down the line.

What will undo these labels? I'm not sure there is an answer. People are going to be prejudice, racist, judgmental, etc.... and it's almost impossible to change them from their ways. About the only thing we can do is start with ourself and get away from using negative labels. Period.
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Old 01-03-2008, 10:46 AM
 
395 posts, read 910,070 times
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You might find these maps interesting. They are based on the 2000 census, so they're a few years outdated, but it gives a good visualization of Kentucky's regional differences (specifically the status of Eastern KY).

http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...er_2000map.pdf
http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...es_2000map.pdf
http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...es_2000map.pdf
http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...ky_1999map.pdf
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Old 01-03-2008, 03:18 PM
 
Location: North Alabama
767 posts, read 1,846,230 times
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Thank you for posting these links. I'm still pondering the chicken or the egg question, but the maps make it apparent that revitalization of Eastern Kentucky is still essential to Kentucky's overall economic viability. Here in Alabama we are still grappling with the same intractable challenges in our Wiregrass Region. Some organizational progress has been made due to the efforts of our present Governor (a Republican), who has leaned on his personal popularity and reputation for integrity to provide a bully pulpit for the unheard voices of that region. However, to date, little in the way of concrete benefits have accrued to the residents of that region. Let us hope that both Kentucky and Alabama both enjoy greater success dealing with their respective challenges in the very near future .
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Old 01-04-2008, 06:44 PM
 
52 posts, read 140,171 times
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Thanks so much for the information everyone has provided! I'm going to check all the links.
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Old 01-05-2008, 08:38 PM
 
Location: West Cobb County, GA (Atlanta metro)
9,188 posts, read 30,226,890 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gb lady View Post
I'm probably going to ruffle some feathers with this post but that's not my intent. I'm just trying to understand this aversion to Eastern Kentucky that a number of posters feel.

.
I can answer that as an outsider, although I did grow up in Charleston, WV which isn't that far technically.

When someone hasn't visited an area in person, all they can go on are impressions they get from people they meet from those areas, comments they hear from those who have visited, and posts they read on boards like this (but overall very few people actually find boards like this).

My best friend here in Atlanta is from Winchester, Kentucky. What is that, something like 12 miles East of Lexington or so? Over the years I've known him, I've run into a number of his family members, as well as old friends of his back home whenever any of these people come through Atlanta and stop to see him.

Now, I can honestly say, if I were to base my opinion of Eastern Kentucky on these 18 or so people, I'd say it has to be one of those "Land that time forgot" places where brothers and sisters marry, sheep are nervous, and pretty much everyone is on meth or oxycontin by the time they're 11 years old, live at home until they're 35, and live off of bumming money from others, never to hold a real job. Every single person in his family from sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, his son, his ex, all the friends... I've never seen such a crew of people. Jeff Foxworthy would probably even drop open his mouth in amazement. Yet, my friend left there in his mid-20s (apparently to get away from all fo that) and is a relatively regular guy.

One time I did drive up there with him to drop off some furniture he was giving away to family, and had only a few brief exposures - but one was a convenience store where the employee was talking about having stabbed her ex boyfriend when she caught him "jigging up" with another gal, and along main street in Winchester I saw two guys who looked like ZZTop, both with gun holsters around their shoulders. Okayyyyy.

Now, common sense tells me that all of the people in Eastern Kentucky are NOT like this. That he simply was raised on the wrong side of the tracks so to speak, and this was all he knew growing up. He was probably one of the kids who came from a family where in school all the other kid's parents said, "Don't you EVER let me find out you're hanging out with his family!", kind of thing. And common sense tells me that the very few people I was exposed to around there were the "town rednecks" just like every small town has.

Even so, when that's all you have to go by, it's really hard not to develop internal impressions when you think of a place. Whenever I hear the work "Kentucky" now, I get quick images of trashy redneck troublemaking drug users walking the streets like zombies.. then I have to mentally smack myself into reality and again, realize people like that only represent a very small percentage of the overall population.

Still, if enough people just "pass through" areas like Winchester, and just happen to have encounters with the types of people I have had them with, then when they get back to whatever state they call home they'll tell stories that start with, "OMG when we were in Kentucky....". So it's not a case of Kentucky hatred I think - it's just that people (including myself) haven't taken the time to go to the NORMAL areas and cities there to get a feel for what the real Kentucky is. Hey, at least you're not in Alabama.. they go through hell with rumors there. LOL
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Old 01-05-2008, 09:18 PM
 
Location: Chicago
15,587 posts, read 23,190,514 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jzer21 View Post
You might find these maps interesting. They are based on the 2000 census, so they're a few years outdated, but it gives a good visualization of Kentucky's regional differences (specifically the status of Eastern KY).

http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...er_2000map.pdf
http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...es_2000map.pdf
http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...es_2000map.pdf
http://ksdc.louisville.edu/sdc/maps/...ky_1999map.pdf
Well, from the maps the simple answer is there is not enough jobs and education is not up to snuff in Eastern Kentucky. Is that the fault of the people who live there?
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Old 01-06-2008, 11:21 AM
 
Location: Thumb of Michigan
4,489 posts, read 6,785,292 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gb lady View Post
Has anyone ever considered that maybe these people stay there because that's where their families are? Maybe they like the slower pace and the beauty all around them.
That's a big part of it! That area has a mystique all of its own unlike anywhere i've ever lived in my short life.

Matter of fact, i'll be heading down to Harlan county tomorrow to visit family for a few days!
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