Chapter 24: Mountain Talk, Part II

[Male speaker] The whole stereotype of the hillbilly and all those kind of things has poisoned the outside world, giving it a wrong impression of mountain culture and mountain speech. But it's also affected people inside the culture, you know. We've become very sensitive to all that. How we're perceived from the outside. And so the language starts changing sort of from within.

[Narrator: Gary Carden] Mountain people are either depicted as inbred and stupid variations of the guys in Deliverance. Or there's the other extreme where they're impossibly noble and remarkable and intelligent. And I can't stand either one. [Name] Miller told me once, he said, "Gary if I lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the only thing I knowed about the mountains was what I read in foxfire, I'd think we's all jelly-making dulcimer-pluckers up here.

[Orville Hicks] I think it was 1964 … I was fourteen year's old before we got electricity at the house. I remember I was fourteen before we got it. I remember the first light bill we got was three dollars. And daddy didn't know how he was gonna pay the light bill. He was going to call and tell them to take the electric back out of the house. But us young'uns [unintelligible] stuff to help pay the light bill so he wouldn't take it back out. It's better than sitting by the oil lamp trying to read a book or do your homework.

[Mary Jane Queen] My brother said when he was a-growing up that if anybody had told him that sometime had been a box that would a, you could turn it on and it would a talked through that, the TV. He said he would a told them they was liars.

[Narrator: Gary Carden] Electricity, telephones and televisions have a tremendous impact on the culture of any community. They were late to arrive in Appalachia, but when they did, they quickly eroded the isolation in which mountain culture was born.

[Jim Tom Hedrick] And our first television… little round screen. Boy, I'd lay back and watch that Amos and Andy. I'd stay on it I'd sat there till it went off and I was up at day light when it come on.

[Narrator: Gary Carden] The TV was on all the time. It was a diversion. It was a distraction, and I think it had a tremendous impact on mountain culture. And I think it affected the language. And it probably affected a lot of other things. I knew that we were in trouble when I met a mountain girl down in North Georgia who lived up in Dial I think it was. You couldn't get any more godforsaken than Dial and Cherry Log where the roads run out. And she had a baby and I inquired about the baby's name. And she told me it was Beretta. [Laughter]

[Electric saw]

[Male speaker] TV has helped a lot on people a-getting together because like you said, used to your voice either brought you in or turned you off. And now it seems like they watch so much TV--and a lot of it from the north--that you don't pay as much attention as you used to.

[Male speaker] The coming of television and radio certainly had some effect but probably not nearly so much as the coming of improved roads. You don't interact with a radio or the television set. You don't often talk back to it. But if you can move out of the place where you isolated to places where people do speak differently. Those are the people you have to interact with, and those are the conversations that are ultimately going to alter your speech patterns.

[Mary Jane Queen singing] "When I was single marriage did I crave. Now, I am married and it's trouble to my grave. Lord I wish I was single girl again. Lord I wish I was single girl again. When I was single I use to be afraid no one would ever wed me and I'd die a sad old maid. Lord I wish I was single girl again. Lord I wish I was single girl again."

[Music]

[Male speaker] We have probably five or six hundred thousand people that come through Western North Carolina each year.

[Bertie Berlson] And of course the economy is better as far as that goes. But we've paid a price for it.

[Tap dancing and dance music]

[Popcorn Sutton] And now they've got Ghost Town and the Stomping Ground and Fair Child and Carolina Nights and the Thunder Ridge thing. Several attractions now for people to come and see. But I remember when they didn't have nothing. The first attraction in the valley I remember was old man Ted Sutton. He'd get out there on a wooden box he'd made and pick an old banjo and sing. And he was one of the first tourist attractions there was around here. Maggie valley now is just about Miami. I mean there's a few people here that's been here all their life. But people from Florida and places like that that have about bought this country out.

[Mary Jane Queen] When people like that moves into an area it makes it entirely different. Because they think that it should go the way they say that it is. And maybe the people that they're living around says, no, that's not how it's supposed to be.

[Female Speaker] Well, that's the mountain customs are definitely a thing that is being lost. And it's a tragedy as far as the people that was born raised in the mountains like myself. And I think it's real important to keep that alive.

[Mary Jane Queen singing] "When I was single he used to come to court. He always brought me candy and I thought he was a sport. Lord I wish I was single girl again. Lord I wish I was single girl again."

[Kyle Edwards] Now we have a lot of influx of people that's come here to get away from wherever they was. And they change it, too. They change it a little bit. And sometimes it's for the better and sometimes it's not. They come here because it's perfect, and some of them try to change it as soon as they get here. You know what I mean. So I like it when, I mean we've got some real true friends that just love it here and are dedicated to the community. When people come maybe from up North, they go to Florida, and they come back, we call them halfbacks. Their attitudes are different, their personalities are different, and their reason's different than ours. They're different then we are. It takes them a while to get used to us or leave ‘cus we don't change a lot.

[Mary Jane Queen singing] "Cows to milk and the spring to go to, a whole crowd of children a-crying after you. Lord I wish I was single girl again. Lord I wish I was single girl again. Wash your feet and hurry off to bed. Your daddy's come in drunk and he'll knock you in the head. Lord I wish I was single girl again. Lord I wish I was single girl again." [laughs]