Carl Absher

Interviewed by: Caitlin Rochelle Absher
Date of Interview: October 16, 2010

Caitlin Rochelle Absher reports:

"My Pepaw [grandfather], Carl Absher, is a Korean War Veteran, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He has been an influence on my life since I can even remember. From when he has told me over the years, He has lived in Norton, Virginia, all his life – he lived in Michigan for a few years because of work. My Grandmother passed away when I was three, thirteen years ago, and he was strong with it, he’s a strong man, and he’s my hero, and he always will be. After I finished with this interview, I learned more things about my Pepaw than I would have ever guessed. "

Question: When and where were you born?

Absher: You al’eady know all these answers Caitlin, but I a’guess I can answer them. I was born nd‘raised in Norton, Sawmill Holler. January eleventh’s of 1946. I was’uh born at home, all’uh mommy’s kids were born’n’the house.

Question: Who were your mother and father? Where were they born and raised?

Absher: Mommy’s maiden’d name was uh Osborne, but when she a’married daddy, her named changed tow Hazel Virginia Absher. Daddy’s name was Barney Absher” – I asked if he had a middle name, and he replied, “When we was growin’ up, they ne’er had middle names. Mommy lived right down’a the road from daddy growin’ up. They said when they was little they used to play al’a’most ev’ryday. Mommy was born’n’raised up here in Sawmill Holler, along sid’a with daddy.

Question: Do you know anything about your ancestry? Where your families from?

Absher: Now, we ain’t got that big of a family. Not much to learn about us really. My a’cousin Ray, he was a good ole man, he went and a’searchin’ on our family tree or what that thing is, and he come and he told’a us that he fount out that there was an Absher with uh King Arthur, one o’his Knights. It sure is hard to believe that one o’us was a Knight

Question: How many siblings do you have? What were their names?

Absher: All ta’gether Mommy had uh’thirteen kids. Three of’em died though, when they was just babies. See back’n the day, it was normal to have big ole families, and havin’ a couple kids that was dead was normal too. Outta all uh us kids, only three of us are girls. My three sister’z names was, Katherine Elizabeth Absher, Joyce Absher, and Mable Virginia Absher. I was the young’n of the boys, there’was’a Randall, Barney, Ronnie, Denny, Bill, Roy – Joyce and Roy were twins - and me, Carl. Ronnie had a twin uh’too ‘Donnie’ was his name, he died when he was only 3 months a’old. After I was born, mommy had another baby and her name was Margrette. She died as soon as she was a’born. When Denny was born, he had’a twin too, his name was’uh Danny. Mommy said he was sick when’a’he was born and there was a’nothin no one could’a do for’em.

Question: What was your house like? Did you have an outhouse? Indoor heating and plumbing? A telephone?

Absher: Ya’know grow’n up we ain’t ne’er had a big house. Mommy ne’er worked so all we ever had was daddy’s income. Which wasn’t nothin’ much, maybe abt twenty-uh-five dollars a week. He was’a coal miner his whole life. We lived in a little ole house. All it e’er had in it was one room, we called it the ‘sittin room’ two bedrooms [ one for the boys and one for the girls ] we ne’er had beds in there either. You slept’n the floor with a sheet, or uh’ piece of clothe. We had’ uh’ real small kitchen. Mommy always did say she could’nt’ e’er cook nothin’ decent in there a’cause she didn’t have no room. No, we didn’t have no indoor heating. All we used was’uh old wooden stove, we had to take uh’turns at night sleepin’ n’ front of it. In mommy’s house we didn’t have plumbing until I was’a grown’n moved out. We used’a out house for as long back as’uh I can remember. We got a telephone but it’a’was connected with five uh’more houses. You hadda to pick it up and’uh listen to see if you could use it. But we ain’t ne’er talk to no one anyways.

Question: What were your chores around the house? Favorite? Least Favorite?

Absher: I ne’er had to nothing much in the house. All’uh the girls had the stuff uh’round the house to do, I had’da go out’n the barn and feed the animals, put the uh’chickens in the coops and just’a make sure nothin’was’a wrong in there. My’a’favorite thing to do was put the a’chickens’na the coops. They were some mean little things, ‘at was’a always a fun thing to do.

Question: Where you ever married? What was your wife’s name?

Absher: Yes, I was uh’married to your grandmother for 47 years. Her a’name was Sharon Dianne Jones. I met ‘er when I was’a 15 years old, she was’a 14. She only lived uh’three streets away and she walked up to mommy’s everyday. I loved’er from the moment I layed eyes on ‘er until the day she uh’died. [takes a short pause] Your grandma passed away in April o’ 1996; which would have made you right around three.

Question: How many children did you have? What were their names and where were they born?

Absher: Three, Anthony Carl; Tonia Danielle; and Christopher Tyrone. Your’a daddy [referring to Anthony] was born in Holston Valley and’a so was Tonia. Chris was borned in Michigan cause that’s’a’ where we were when your grandmother was pregnant.

Question: What was your first job? Did you like it?

Absher: I worked at the Sawmill down at the swimmin’hole. I lived up here my whole life; that was’a my first job and i’was my favorite. That’is’a’how Sawmill got its name yanno. When I first turnt 13 the loggin’ company put in the Sawmill right at’a the bottom’f’the Holler.

Question: What was your favorite thing to do for fun?

Absher: Go up in the Patch, hunt, fish, swim, walk around’n the woods; cut’n down new paths, fixin the’uh road up there. [he takes a break and puts chew in his mouth] help’n mommy ahh’round the house was never something that the boys was’a doin, it was ne’er’uh a fun thing to do, my sisters stayed’uh home’n helped doin all that stuff. I’da rather be up in the woods. Me, brothers, an the neighborhood kids always’uh had somethin’ to be a’doin up in the woods. We always a’had fun. We had built uh cabin so far up there ain’t never no one but us up’there.’

Question: What school did you first attend and in what year?

Absher: I didn’t go to’a school til I was’a bout 8 years old, mommy had taught us how’to’a read and write some. There was’a school house right down’a the road as soon as’a you a’go across the railroad tracks on the right hand side, there was’a lil ole wooden shack settin’ on’a the right’a side of the road. There was’a only a hand full uh neighborhood kids that went there. Later on I went to’a Norton High School, it was’a where the park is now.

Question: Were the school systems segregated when you attended them?

Absher: I’a enjoyed going to school sometimes but you had to walk there and we didn’t live close to’a the park at all. The schools’a’be’n segregated ended by the time I had reached’d the 10th grade. Not too long after I dropped out, got married and left for the army

Question: How did your family celebrate Christmas? Did you receive more than one gift?

Absher: Well we had’a large family, and daddy was the’uh only one’a workin’ so woulda usually get up to two gifts each. If you do the math that is around 26 things momma and dada had to either make or buy comin out of’a coal minin’ check. This was not that much’a either. Mommy would’a make us a new shirt or a pair of’a socks. Somethin’ along’a the lines of that. The girls would gett’ta rag doll or a blanket that momma would make at home. We ne’er really got anything that was store bought.

Question: Did you take part in any world wars? Battles?

Absher: I was not apart of any World Wars no, but I did’a fight in the Vietnam War. I was over across sea for months’n’months, didn’t really get to talk to my family much, nor was there anything’a good to eat. We sure did eat those damn’uh bananas that were there though, shew lordy there sure was’a enough of them there to feed us for years. We would sit over there in the sand for days at a time and not do a thing. It was fun at times bein’uh over there, but others it was boring as can be, not a damn thing to do most the time but sit there and wait for’uh somethin’ to happen

Question: If you did was it rough being away from your family?

Absher: Oh lord yes, it was rough being away from your grandmother. She was pregnant when I left’a’for the war. I missed her erryday more than I missed anyone other than my own momma. But shit happens and you gotta do what you gotta do, yanno. I couldn’t just say no when I got drafted to Vietnam. Your grandmother stayed with my parents, and about two months into my trip o’er there daddy died. I wasn’t home for the funeral. That was the worst’a thing that happened while I was’a there.

Question: Do you remember your grandparents' parents? Your great-grandparents? What were their names? How old were they when they died? Where are they buried?

Absher: I remember Mommys daddys name was Gerald, and boy he was’a somethin’. He went and got drunk one night and he’a got ran over by’a train right below the house. He lived and ah’round a year or so later he got hit by a car all be’a’cause he was’a walkin’ around in the road drunk. And ah’round two years after that he got hit by a train and it killed em. He was even in the newpaper; the title of it hadda said ‘third times the charm.’ I don’t’a remember my grandmother much, she was dead when I was’a baby, I remembered mommy said her name Bertha. My great grandparents? They was already dead when I was little, But I know that papaws [grandfather] name was Holly Ray Absher and memaws [grandmother] name was Virginia Marie Osbourne. I don’t know how old they was when they had died, but all’uh them are buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery.

Question: What was the hardest thing growing up in the old days?

Absher: Not havin’ enough money. Not havin’ electricity. Always’uh hav’in to use a wooden stove to keep the house warm. Alotta things were hard growin’ up in the years that’a I did but I wouldn’t do it any other’uh way. I would have’a to say the hardest thing growing up in the “old” days as you call it would’a been all the work the men had to do. E’eryone expected you to go straight into the mines as soon as you were old enough and if you didn’t you got stuck doing the work around the house, all of it. Women had e’erything easy compared to now, all they hadda do was stay at home, cook and clean.

Question: Did your family have a lot of money?

Absher: Lord no! Daddy was a coal miner but back then they wasn’t makin 25 dollars an hour like they are now. Daddy brought home about 54 dollars a week. And that had to buy the uh food momma needed and what not. Mommy ne’er worked uh’ day in her whole life, god love her soul. Daddy did lil’ things around the uh’ neighborhood for people when he hadda the time to and they would give him lil’ amounts of money here and there. But no, my family didn’t have a lot of money while I was growing up.

Question: What did your parents do for a living?

Absher: Daddy worked for the Sawmill for a little while. But he worked’n’the coal mines nearly his whole life. Mommy, she ain’t ne’er worked in her whole life. Daddy was the one that always uh’worked. He stayed workin’ in the coal mines until it killed em. Mommy stayed at home with the kids, cooked, cleaned, and that was about it.

Question: Did you ever have thoughts about working in coal mines? If you have worked for one, what was it called?

Absher: I worked for Paramount for I’da say 4 months, when I was’a 16 or so. I didn’t like bein’uh underground. Workin’ in’a the mines is hard, cruel, and rough. You’da go under bein able to breathe and when’a you’da come out it woulda seem like someone was’a settin on your chest, couldn’t breathe at all. Now daddy done it his whole life and two of my brothers did too, it just wasn’t for me. I ain’t ever wanted to go back to them either.

Question: Did your family have a car? If not, how old were you when they had one?

Absher: Lordy no. Mommy and Daddy didn’t getta car til I was probably ‘round 9 or10. You know how they got one? Daddy traded horses and cows with’a the neighbors for his one night. It wasn’t ever a good car either. It had stuff wrong with it that Daddy ain’t ever tried to fixin’. He always said it wasn’t even worth his horses and cows. He said he regretted gittin’ rid of them animals for a stupid ole piece of shit car. He didn’t’ keep that car for long, maybe two years then he traded it for a different one and I could’a sworn he was better off with’a first en. He would sit out and cuss that car more than I ever heard em in my life.

Question: : Looking back, if you could change one thing about your life would you? [For example:] having more money?

Absher: Hmmmm, this is a tough en. I really wouldn’t wanna change I thing. I enjoyed myself growin’ up. And I ain’t always had the best of stuff throughout my life, but I had what’I’uh needed. There were times that I always did want more money, but money isn’t everything. As long as your grandma was happy, I was happy.

Question: Did your family have a religious background? Did you attend church regularly? If so, what was the name of the church you attended?

Absher: Mommy made us attend church all the time growin’ up. She said without church you ain’t got nothin’. We went to a little chapel right down the road from our house. It really didn’t have a name thinkin’ back to then. We just sat around and did bible readings. They always read to the youngin’s because most the times, the youngin’s couldn’t read it themselves. Mommy’s parents had a religious background and her kids did; but daddy’s parents did not go to church regularly.

Question: What was your favorite activity to do when you were not busy?

Absher: When I was first married I would always take your granma out to the movies, yanno it was only a nickel to get in then, that was my favorite thing to do when I wasn’t busy. She enjoyed herself a lot and so did I. We would walk down the’uh road and catch a ride on the train that was comin’ through Ramsey and hop off when it would reach South Side. But growin’ up before I met your granma, you could find me uh’settin up in the mountains somewheres, huntin’ or fishin’. Every chance I got when I wasn’t busy I was always up in the mountains doing somethin’ or another.