National Park Service
Coal camp life could be isolating, even lonely at times. Entertainment for most camp folk was little. The church and school were the main sources of social events. There was "church meeting" several times a week. Sunday school and singing school to prepare the young for choir and hymn harmonies.
Music and dancing was not commonplace in an area most visitors today might associate with lively instruments and mountain rhythms. A few people mentioned playing harmonica, or "mouth harp" or guitar. Henley Waters, who lived outside the camp but worked mainly at the tipple, played instruments, and Betty Lou Davis West passed the time playing her guitar on the front porch.
Even the Blue Heron Quartet, which sang on Somerset radio, sang exclusively gospel music. Dancing, for almost all Blue Heron people, was a rare experience and was often forbidden as unacceptable behavior. Some young girls would learn to dance from their elders or from music on the radio, but their fathers seldom approved of learning to dance at all.
Visiting was the main amusement for women at most coal camps, but at Blue Heron, several people mentioned that the wives kept more to themselves at this camp than at Co-operative or Worley camps.
Most people from Blue Heron still remember the first movie they ever saw, the first time they went to town, or their first ice cream cone. Some older folks remember the first automobile they ever saw, and what a special event going to Stearns would be.
There was a vast difference between the memories or those who first settled in Blue Heron and the younger generation who lived there after the road was in and television was available.
It was a quiet life. We walked. We walked down to the bridge. We walked to Worley to the picture show. Church was a main event.
There wasn't nothing there to entertain them. You had to go to Stearns or Whitley one to go to a show.
I guess my biggest entertainment that was reading all the Nancy Drew novels. That was a great escape. Because, you know, she was my friend.
We'd entertain ourselves by sitting on the river bank, us boys would, playing music, singing, drinking a little bit, wanting to get away from our dads.
And our play time prior to adolescents, we dressed and pretended like we were movie stars and all these other things. We knew that was beyond our reach.
You'd have the radio on. We'd play music and dance. Maybe might be no guys there, we'd just dance.
Course Christians never went to dances or anything. But before I was saved why I'd stay all night at dances on them mountains up there were the law couldn't get into us too much.
I remember we had one little girl in this home. But I don't call no names. But there she wore overalls all the time. She could play the banjo better than anybody there.
There was a man from Tennessee taught it. He taught to singing schools. I think he got five dollars for each one of them. He taught the basics of music by the scales, the bars, and the notes.
We did a lot of singing with my brother Hoyt and my uncle Bob. I sang in a quartet for a long time. We were always in demand for funerals at different churches in Wayne county and McCreary county.
Lord I fished there. I had the best time in the world
My father taught me to swim when I was very young age because he was a great swimmer. I had no fear of the water.
It was a big thing to go out between the railroad tracks.
They had a ball team at Blue Heron. We'd play Barthel!. We'd play Worley and Beech Grove.
I'd played baseball in grade school. And Hattie Waters and I was really as good as any of the tellers playing.
The big social event was a pie supper or a box supper at the school to raise money. They would have contests: the prettiest girl and the ugliest girl.
They would have an auctioneer. They would bid these things off, "How much can I have for this pie." Well if that happen to be your girlfriend's pie and if you had a rival that's just what the school principal or the sponsor of the pie supper wanted. You and the person who had made the pie ate the pie after all the auctioneering was over and all the pies had been sold. So you were vying in a sense to get to share the pie with your girlfriend instead of her sharing it with maybe somebody she thought was rather attractive.
Our special day was the Fourth of July when the carnival come. That's what we lived for.
It was a big thing for me. The picnic they had there once a year. They had the sack races, ball game, hog-calling contests, and watermelon eating contests.
I know a family that their daddy got hurt in the mines and later died. That was a rough time. Anyway they would save for it. One year part of that family would go to Stearns on the Fourth of July. The next year the other part went.
We had some get togethers like marshmallow roasts and stuff like that. We'd play different games: dropping the handkerchiefs causes, ring up, find something, cat-and mouse, and different games. Just old time games like that.
My brother-in-law use to take us to church. He had this old truck. We would all get on that truck and there was no support. Sometimes the lights would go out. We would go around this corner and we would all be hanging on. If one would let go all we would all fall off. But we had more fun. That was really great entertainment.
To continue your visit through the Blue Heron Mining Community, choose the next "ghost structure" you wish to visit.