Betty Ann Blankenship Sturgill

Interviewed by: Eric Blankenship
Date of Interview: November 12, 2014
Interview Location: Mrs. Sturgill's home

Eric Blankenship reports:

"Betty Sturgill, my paternal grandmother was born and raised in Coeburn, Virginia. Her family was what you might call an average family experience growing up in Appalachia. I feel that this interview will not only allow people to look into the past but also preserve the history and legacy of my family tradition."

Question: What is your full name and were you named after anyone in your family?

Sturgill: Betty Ann Powers

Question: Where and when were you born?

Sturgill: Coeburn, Virginia on June 28, 1942.

Question: Can you tell me a little about your mother and father?

Sturgill: My mother was Flora Lee Mullins. She was born March 25, 1912 in Dickenson County, Virginia. She graduated from Dickenson Memorial High School and attended Radford College. She was able to attend college at Radford because her uncle William E. Gilbert was a professor there. After graduation she taught school in Dickenson County until she married my father. She died March 23, 1994. My father was Teddy Milton Powers. He was born in Coeburn, Virginia where he lived his entire life. He was raised by his father. His mother left when he was a small child. He had asthma really bad as a child. A doctor told his father he would not live to be grown. He died March 8, 2004 at the age of 91. He was a carpenter and a musician. He won many contests playing his fiddle.

Question: What did your mother and father do for a living?

Sturgill: Mother was a teacher and homemaker. Father was a carpenter.

Question: What was the main form of transportation growing up?

Sturgill: My father had a pickup truck which he used mainly for work. We mostly walked to town which was a short distance and rode the bus to school. If we went to Norton or Abingdon we rode a bus.

Question: How many siblings did you have and if so, were you the oldest, youngest, or in the middle?

Sturgill: I have 4 brothers and 1 sister. I was the third child.

Question: Did you get along with your brothers and sisters?

Sturgill: We got along most of the time. I was very shy and introverted. We sometimes fought over what to listen to on the radio or watch on television when we had television.

Question: As a child, what was your favorite toy or game?

Sturgill: Hide and seek - we called it hoopie hide - and softball. I usually got a doll for Christmas. I was a tomboy and played marbles with my brothers.


Question: Was your mom and dad strict and how did they punish you if you did do anything wrong?

Sturgill: We knew what was expected of us and they didn't have to resort to punishing us much. I don't remember getting into much trouble.

Question: What was your main meal and what was your favorite food?

Sturgill: We always had a big breakfast. Biscuits, gravy, bacon or sausage and always oatmeal. No boxed cereal. We ate a lot of pinto beans, cornbread, potatoes and other garden vegetables. We never went hungry. My favorite food was fried chicken.

Question: What is the best ever holiday you had?

Sturgill: We always went to Clintwood to my grandparents for Easter. My cousins from there and Kentucky would come and we would all have a wonderful time.

Question: How did you pass time?

Sturgill: I always liked to read. We played outside in the summer. We had to work in the garden also.

Question: Where did you attend school?

Sturgill: I attended Coeburn High School and graduated in 1960.

Question: What was your first job?

Sturgill: My first job was as a secretary for the Labor Department in Washington, D. C. The government had a program where girls could pass a civil service test and work for the government in D. C. What a shock for a shy girl from Coeburn going to work in D. C. Several girls from this area went and we all stayed at the Evangeline Hotel for Girls in D. C. It was run by the Salvation Army and we paid rent.

Question: What was your first car and do you have any stories about it?

Sturgill: Chevrolet. No stories about it. First car I bought on my own was a Ford Escort which I bought in 1994.

Question: Did you, or anyone in your family, go to college?

Sturgill: My mother went to Radford College. I went 2 years in the 1990's.

Question: What profession did you choose and why did you choose this?

Sturgill: I chose secretary because that was offered by the government program when I graduated from high school.

Question: Did you leave the area after college or you got a job and if so where did you go?

Sturgill: Yes, I went to Washington, D.C. for work.

Question: What was it like the first time left your home for a long period of time to work?

Sturgill: I did get homesick but enjoy working in Washington. I had a lot of friends and there was a lot to do and see.

Question: What were some of the jobs you had?

Sturgill: Clerk in grocery store, and I spent 21 years working as a bank teller.

Question: Would you change your choice of profession if you could, and if so, what would you choose to do?

Sturgill: If I could have chosen a different profession, I would have chosen librarian. I love books and love being in a library.

Question: What were some major news events you lived through?

Sturgill: End of World War 2, Vietnam War, Gulf War, tragedy of 9-11. Moon landing. Assassination of President Kennedy.

Question: Did living in the Appalachian Mountains affect this?

Sturgill: Of course. A lot of people from here fought in the wars. I am sure most of the people here were watching the moon landing and the news coverage of the Kennedy assassination.

Question: At this point in your life you had moved back to your hometown. What made you move back to Appalachia?

Sturgill: I got married and had three children. I wanted them to grow up where I did. It is the best place in the world to live.

Question: What did you do once you moved back home?

Sturgill: I raised my children, helped take care of my parents until they died and worked in a bank until I retired in 1997.

Question: Who is the person that influenced you the most in your life?

Sturgill: My grandmother, Martha Alice Gilbert Mullins was the biggest influence in my life. She died in 1986 at the age of 99. She was a Godly woman. She loved everybody. She lived a simple life and taught me that you do not need material things to be rich or happy.