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0:19 - Early life / father's occupations

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Partial Transcript: My name is William Carson and I was born in Catlettsburg, Kentucky March the third 1931.

Segment Synopsis: Carson was born in 1919 in Catlettsburg, Kentucky and moved to Laurel County when he was a toddler. Carson's father was from Pulaski County and worked in construction, and later as a mail carrier and coal miner. Carson's mother primarily took care of Carson and his nine siblings, but took on domestic work outside the home later in life. Carson's father then moved the family to Laurel County so that he could more easily commute to a coal mine in Harlan during the week. Carson adds that his father delivered mail on horseback from Mount Vernon to small communities in Pulaski County.

Keywords: Mail carriers; Domestic workers; Dixie Dam (Ky.)

Subjects: Father; Childhood; Early life; Catlettsburg (Ky.); Boyd County (Ky.); Parents; Mother; Ashland (Ky.); Construction workers; Dams; Burgin (Ky.); Coal mines; Coal mines and mining; Pulaski County (Ky.); Siblings; Harlan (Ky.); Chores; Farms; Coal; Cousins; Mercer County (Ky.); Mount Vernon (Ky.); Horses; Pulaski County (Ky.)

4:10 - Moving to Laurel County

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Partial Transcript: . . . When he got to Laurel County, what kind of work was he doing here?

Segment Synopsis: Carson recalls that his father and uncle would commute to a coal mine in Harlan by train and come home to East Bernstadt on the weekends. Carson's father and uncle would stay at an all-Black coal camp during the week. Carson briefly describes the coal camp, including its company store. Carson remained in East Bernstadt with his mother and siblings and lived on a small family farm. Carson says that the land is still in the family, but one of his siblings who retained the property decided to build a new house there. Carson says that his family moved to Altamont in part because his uncle lived there on a farm and the remaining members of his father's family had moved away from Kentucky.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Coal camps; Altamont (Ky.); Altamont Creek (Ky.)

Subjects: Childhood; Early life; Laurel County (Ky.); Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Father; Harlan (Ky.); Train; Commute; Uncles; Blacks; African Americans; Segregation; Company stores; Farms; Family farms; Mother; Siblings; Aunts; Detroit (Mich.)

8:05 - Childhood farm and surroundings

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Partial Transcript: How many--uh--acres did you guys have . . .

Segment Synopsis: Carson grew up on a seven acre farm where the family raised livestock and crops. Carson recalls that his father would butcher four hogs each Thanksgiving to give the family enough meat for the winter. Carson's primary chore on the farm was to plow the field with a team of mules. Carson also got into hauling coal with his cousin when he was about nine or ten. Carson and his cousin would take a mule team down to the small mines near their farm and purchase and haul the coal from the mine into East Bernstadt. Carson says that he was paid by the ton and sold coal to grocery stores and neighbors.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Acreage; Smoke houses; Hauling coal; Country stores

Subjects: Childhood; Early life; Blacks; African Americans; Laurel County (Ky.); Farms; Family farms; Hogs; Livestock; Cattle; Milk; Chickens; Thanksgiving; Crops; Beans; Corn; Potatoes; Tomatoes; Wheat; Uncles; Chores; Mules; Plowing; Coal; Flour; Cousins; Money; Weight

12:59 - Coal mining in Laurel County

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Partial Transcript: And so it was all sort of family-owned mines that was back in there--

Segment Synopsis: Carson says that when he was growing up in the 1930s, the coal mines near his farm in East Bernstadt were family-owned small mines. Initially, Carson says that people would scrape the coal in order to extract it, but mining techniques later changed to stripping the coal. The small coal mines typically only sold enough coal to pay for their own heating costs in the winter. Carson recalls that trucking coal was not a common practice in Laurel County until after World War II. Carson adds that people began shipping coal on railroad cars more often as well. Carson's father retired from coal mining when Carson was about fourteen or fifteen, in part due to a cousin of his father who died in the mines. Carson's father initially switched to hauling coal with a truck, but then returned to coal mining a few years later since coal miner's wages were higher and could enable him to support his large family better.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Hauling coal; Coal trucks; Small coal mines

Subjects: Laurel County (Ky.); Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Farms; Income; Heat; Railroads; Father; Retirement; Cousins; Danger; Safety; Death; World War II; Trucks

16:19 - Father's work as a coal miner

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Partial Transcript: What do you remember about--um--the life of a miner at that time from your father . . .

Segment Synopsis: Carson says that his father told him to never get a job as a coal miner. Carson's father initially turned to coal mining when the Great Depression made it difficult to find any kind of employment. Carson's father did join the union when membership became available to him in the 1930s. Carson recalls that when he was hauling coal in Clay County in the 1950s, one non-union mine there had shut down for eleven months. Carson discusses some of the issues that coal miners faced when trying to unionize the mines. Carson's father did not participate in the efforts of Harlan coal miners to unionize, but his father recalls seeing people picketing. Carson says that the UMW (United Mine Workers) pension that his father earned helped support his mother for thirty years after his father died. Carson laments that his union pension he received for hauling coal much later pales in comparison to the benefits his father obtained from his pension. Carson says that his father did not face any discrimination in Harlan for being Black because so many of his fellow coal miners were Black, but adds that he did get along well with his white co-workers.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Union mines; Hauling coal; Non-union mines; Union organizing; Bloody Harlan; Union pensions; Whites

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Coal miners; Coal; Coal mines and mining; Harlan (Ky.); Laurel County (Ky.); Father; Great Depression; Unemployment; Labor unions; Strikes and lockouts; Whitesburg (Ky.); Picketing; Nineteen thirties; Home; Reputation; Pensions; Mother; United Mine Workers of America; Race; Cooperation

20:26 - Segregation in southeastern Kentucky/work history

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Partial Transcript: So, during that time . . . in the 1930s and as your father was working in Harlan and in the mines, how would you describe relations at that time here?

Segment Synopsis: Carson says that he was unaware of race when he was a child during the 1930s. Carson adds that he got along with whites his whole life and that most of his co-workers in the trucking industry were white. Carson developed strategies to navigate where to stop when he was a truck driver during the 1950s and 1960s in southeastern Kentucky. Carson would only stop at restaurants he knew would serve Blacks. Carson learned which restaurants were safe for him through trial and error (since most restaurants in southeastern Kentucky were segregated and would only serve white customers.) Carson explains that he was permitted to eat in the back of some restaurants, especially if he either knew the restaurant owner or was with his white friends. Carson also mentions his work history, which includes establishing a coal hauling business with his father and plowing the Greer family farm to earn extra money.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Whites; Hauling coal; Greer Trucking; Opportunities; Greer Trucking; Elmo Greer & Sons

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; London (Ky.); Laurel County (Ky.); Early life; Adolescence; Nineteen fifties; Nineteen sixties; Young adults; Race; Racism; Discrimination; Truck drivers; Coal; Restaurants; Prejudice; Segregation; Plowing; Farms; Hay; Horses; Mules; Work; Father; Unemployment; Greer family

24:48 - Education

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Partial Transcript: But, before that, when you were younger, did you get to go to school at all, during that time?

Segment Synopsis: Carson attended segregated schools throughout all levels of his education. For grammar school, Carson initially attended the London School and then went to the East Bernstadt School near his home. Carson went to Rosenwald High School in Barbourville for one year before dropping out. Carson participated in a carpool with a teacher and several other students who lived in London to get to school everyday. Carson was one of the only people in his class from East Bernstadt to pass the eighth grade and go on to Rosenwald High School. Carson describes the high school's building and location off of old U.S. Route 25. Carson says that most students commuted to school from towns such as Pineville and Flat Lick. Carson was unable to participate in sports during high school because of the long commute. Carson would take the bus to get to school in London and walked when he went to the East Bernstadt School. Carson's wife is also from a small community in Laurel County called Pittsburg. On a typical day, Carson took a lunch pail to school filled with beans and potatoes.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); London School (Ky.); Grammar school; Carpools; East Bernstadt School; One-room schools; Ape Yard (Laurel County, Ky.); Lunch; Altamont School; Wife; Pittsburg (Ky.); Rosenwald High School (Barbourville, Ky.)

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Segregation; Elementary schools; Middle schools; Rosenwald schools; Commute; Teachers; Students; High school; Barbourville (Ky.); Pineville (Ky.); Students; Sports; Food; Walking; Flat Lick (Ky.)

33:35 - Hauling coal/changes to coal and trucking industry

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Partial Transcript: . . . You left high school at sixteen---

Segment Synopsis: When Carson was hauling coal from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, he would sell coal door-to-door and often slept in his truck at night. Carson comments on how the world feels much more dangerous today and he could not picture himself sleeping in his truck at night anymore. Carson typically went to areas in southeastern Kentucky where there was an abundance of coal, such as Manchester and Crab Orchard and then sold the coal to customers living in larger cities like Lexington and Louisville. Carson discusses the decline of the coal industry in the 1960s, which he attributes to the lower demand for coal as alternative sources of heat became cheaper. Carson adds that there were more people hauling coal in the 1960s compared to when he started in the late 1940s. Carson says there was a lack of employment opportunities for young people in Laurel County when he came of age in the early 1950s, which caused people to either leave the area or start their own business like Carson did. Carson says that he never considered leaving the Laurel County area and has enjoyed the stability of only having two jobs throughout his career. Carson worked as a semi-truck driver for a Nashville-based trucking company before he retired in the 1980s.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Hauling coal; Driving; U.S. Route 25; Inflation; Ape Yard (Laurel County, Ky.); Semi-trucks

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Coal; Coal mines and mining; Truck drivers; Trucks; Danville (Ky.); Stanford (Ky.); Lexington (Ky.); Door-to-door selling; Change; Violence; Fear; Money; Income; Crab Orchard (Ky.); Travel; Manchester (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.); Ohio; Indiana; Railroads; Hay; Nineteen sixties; Nineteen fifties; Heat; Barbourville (Ky.); Prices; Mother; Natural gas; Gas--Prices--North America; Competition; Opportunity; Home; Nashville (Ky.); Tractor trailers; Fossil fuels

42:11 - Working for Greer Trucking

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Partial Transcript: I started working with the Greers in 1963.

Segment Synopsis: After getting out of hauling coal, Carson began working for Greer Trucking to help construct Interstate 75. Carson would commute each week to the construction site and came home to Laurel County on the weekends. Carson discusses the Greer family, who are prominent in Laurel County and own, according to Carson, one of the largest companies in the county. Carson explains that the social connections of the Greer family helped them to secure a contract with the state to be the main construction firm involved with creating Interstate 75. Carson's primary job responsibility was to haul construction materials to and from the construction site. Carson says that the construction of Interstate 75 was economically beneficial for the people of Laurel County, adding that his salary from Greer Trucking was quite good.

Keywords: Greer Trucking; Elmo Greer & Sons; Elmo Greer; Eugene Greer; Contacts; Pay

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Construction industry; Truck drivers; Interstate 75; Nineteen sixties; Greer family; Commute; Rocks; Farms; Manchester (Ky.); Employees

46:21 - Work as a semi-truck driver

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Partial Transcript: No, I started working for another outfit in Corbin.

Segment Synopsis: In 1973, Carson left Greer Trucking and became a semi-truck driver for Consolidated Freightways, which had a hub in Corbin at the time. Carson enjoyed working there because as he gained seniority, he was able to pick the routes he took and the pay was good. Carson also says he received a generous pension when he retired in 1999, two years before Holiday Freightways went bankrupt. In the 1980s, Carson was forced to pick a different hub and decided to choose Nashville because he did not want to uproot his family. Carson was able to choose one of the only short haul routes out of Nashville, which was to Memphis and came back to East Bernstadt on the weekends. Additionally, Carson explains why he did not like sleeping in his truck, since he felt that it was more efficient to finish the route during the day and come home instead.

Keywords: Semi trucks; Truckers union; Family; East Bernstadt (Ky.); Routes; Moving; Nights; Pay; Shifts

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Truck drivers; Tractor trailers; Laurel County (Ky.); Corbin (Ky.); Mount Vernon (Ky.); Manchester (Ky.); Cincinnati (Ohio); Retirement; Nashville (Tenn.); Travel; Pensions; Freedom; Seniority, Employee; Bankruptcy; Commute; Memphis (Tenn.); Independence; Sleep; Home; Children; Coffee; Consolidated Freightways, inc.

54:53 - Lack of job opportunities in Laurel County for post-WWII generation

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Partial Transcript: Did you know many people when you were younger--um--who did leave the area . . . who couldn't find jobs . . .

Segment Synopsis: Carson recalls that many people in his generation who came of age in the 1950s decided to leave Laurel County for better job opportunities. Carson explains that there were very few jobs available in the area during that time. Carson says that many of his friends and relatives moved up north to work in the automotive industry and in other positions in the manufacturing industry. Carson observed that many people from Ohio are originally from Kentucky as a result of this post-war economic migration.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Opportunities; Moving; Steel mills; The South; Automotive industry

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; London (Ky.); Laurel County (Ky.); Work; Young adults; Unemployment; Nineteen fifties; Ohio; Michigan; Great Migration, ca. 1914-ca. 1970; Youngstown (Ohio); Factories; Cousins; Ford Motor Company; General Motors Corporation

56:44 - Union labor versus non-union labor in trucking industry

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Partial Transcript: It cost so much they really--bring them--our factories back this way to get away from that union . . .

Segment Synopsis: Carson says that car manufacturers decided to open factories in the South to avoid having to unionize like in the North. Carson believes that the move to non-unionized trucking companies caused the unionized trucking company he retired from (Consolidated Freightways) to declare bankruptcy. Carson says that non-union truckers had less rights as workers when compared to union truckers. For example, when Carson transited through Atlanta, he was able to rest in the warehouse, while non-union truckers had to continue working on the loading docks. Carson says that around 25,000 jobs were lost when Consolidated Freightways closed and many people faced economic hardships as a result.

Keywords: The South; United Auto Workers of America (UAW); Car factories; Non-union factories; Salary; Working conditions; Worker's rights; Truckers union

Subjects: Unions; Truck drivers; Tractor trailers; Blacks; African Americans; Money; Consolidated Freightways, inc; Atlanta (Ga.); Unemployment; Nashville (Tenn.); Roadway Express

61:14 - Job market in London, KY now/recreation during childhood

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Partial Transcript: What do you think--um--as far as currently with the job situation in and around Laurel County, do you think that it's improved for young people?

Segment Synopsis: Carson thinks that employment opportunities have improved in Laurel County since he was young. Carson says that working for the school system was one of the only good careers available in Laurel County up until about twenty or twenty-five years ago. Carson's son was a teacher and had the opportunity to take early retirement. As a young child, Carson played games with his friends. Carson says that there were very few opportunities for recreation and entertainment when he was growing up. As a teenager, Carson would go to a nearby restaurant in East Bernstadt and dance to juke box music. Carson says that there were no clubs in the area and that it was difficult to travel to other areas because most people did not have a car.

Keywords: Opportunities; Playing; East Bernstadt (Ky.); Entertainment; Juke boxes; Hauling coal

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; London (Ky.); Laurel County (Ky.); Change; Unemployment; Young adults; Careers; Teachers; Teaching; Recreation; Games; Childhood; Adolescence; Teenagers; Restaurants; Segregation; Manchester (Ky.); Truck drivers; Coal; Transportation

63:58 - Married life

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Partial Transcript: When did you start dating Joyce?

Segment Synopsis: Carson discusses what dating his future wife was like in the early 1950s. Carson describes the three house fires the couple suffered in the span of about thirty years. Carson and his wife settled in London, Kentucky and lived in two rented houses before purchasing their first home. Carson says that the first fire was caused by the age of the home. Carson also mentions that the third home fire they suffered was caused by faulty wiring in the attic.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Wife; Movies; House fires

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; London (Ky.); Laurel County (Ky.); Marriage; Dating; Fire

69:19 - Living on Uncle Russ McKee's property

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Partial Transcript: Now when you lived at--uh--Uncle Russ McKee's, what was that like--that area that he was renting?

Segment Synopsis: Carson briefly lived on the property of his uncle, Russ McKee. McKee had three houses (which he rented to both Blacks and white people), and several cabins for agricultural workers. McKee also ran a hamburger restaurant on the property, which was frequented by local teenagers looking for a place to dance. Carson recalls that there were rumors about Uncle Russ bootlegging, prompting the police to reid the property one night. Carson was out of town working when the reid happened, but was questioned by the police because the vehicle registration for his work truck was not a city license and wanted an excuse to interrogate him about Uncle Russ' suspected bootlegging activities. Carson explains that the city gave him the wrong vehicle registration sticker and he did not want to pay for a new one since it was the city's error.

Keywords: Russ McKee; Tenants; Cabins; Seasonal workers; Whites; Dancing; Bootlegging (Alcohol trafficking); Vehicle registration; Hauling coal; Police reids

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Uncles; Laurel County (Ky.); Rural; Farms; Rent; Restaurants; Agriculture; Tobacco; Hamburgers; Teenagers; Rumors; Police; Trucks; Work; Coal

74:17 - Uncle Russ / social connections in East Bernstadt

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Partial Transcript: We were talking before about--uh--Uncle Russ. Did he--he also worked for Colonel Sanders at one point?

Segment Synopsis: Carson's Uncle Russ was friends with Colonel Sanders and Uncle Russ had claimed that he gave Colonel Sanders the secret recipe to make what became Kentucky Fried Chicken. Carson says that Uncle Russ ran a hamburger restaurant on his property. Carson then discusses Uncle Russ' life, including his son who became the Chief of Police in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Carson then speculates upon which of Uncle Russ' relatives inherited his property. Carson says that most of his own friends from East Bernstadt were white. Carson adds that most of his trucker friends were also white. Carson describes his friends from East Bernstadt as generous and helpful.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Russ McKee; House; Whites

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Uncles; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Colonel Sanders, 1890-1980; Sanders, Harland, 1890-1980; Restaurants; Fried chicken; Hamburgers; Personality; Police; Sons; Yellow Springs (Ohio); Truck drivers; Tractor trailers; Friendship; Race; Kindness; Kentucky Fried Chicken (Firm); Recipes

81:42 - Altamont Church / demographics of coal towns

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Partial Transcript: . . . And you said that you had gone to the Altamont?

Segment Synopsis: Carson attended Altamont Baptist Church when he was growing up. Carson lists some of the reverends at the church and estimates that there were about forty-five or fifty congregants. Carson says that it was a mostly Black church, but white people sometimes visited. Carson recalls that there was an all-Black coal camp in East Bernstadt. Carson explains that many Blacks came from the deep South searching for better economic opportunities and moved to coal towns such as Harlan to work in the mines.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); Altamont (Laurel County, Ky.); Black churches; Coal camps; Whites; Altamont Baptist Church (East Bernstadt, Ky.)

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Demographics; Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Kentucky; Harlan (Ky.); Church; Religion; Christianity; Christians

84:17 - Mother's family history

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Partial Transcript: . . . They raised--I know they had a farm down in Pulaski County--

Segment Synopsis: Carson says that his mother's side of the family was from Pulaski County, Kentucky. Carson remembers taking the train down to Crab Orchard as a child with his mother to visit family on the weekends. Carson's grandparents died young, causing his mother to raise her younger siblings. Carson briefly discusses one uncle who was adopted into a family from Hodgenville and died of a rare illness.

Keywords: Grandfather; Illnesses; Family

Subjects: Mother; Father; Blacks; African Americans; Pulaski County (Ky.); Farms; Family farms; Grandparents; Crab Orchard (Ky.); Train; Nineteen thirties; Childhood; Early life; Aunts; Uncles; Siblings; Death; Adoption; Hodgenville (Ky.); Health; Cincinnati (Ohio)

87:31 - Experiences with segregation

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Partial Transcript: How have you seen the community in this area of Laurel County change?

Segment Synopsis: Carson compares his experiences of segregation in Laurel County and in the deep South during the 1950s and 1960s. Carson feels that he was treated better in the South than in Laurel County. Carson was not permitted to eat at many restaurants in London, but discovered more options when he traveled to the South for work. When Carson's son had to have a surgical procedure done in Atlanta during the mid-1960s, Carson says the family was able to stay in a Holiday Inn. The family was also permitted to stay at the hospital for free while his son recovered from surgery. Carson also mentions that if he knew the owner at certain restaurants in London he was allowed to eat there. When going out to restaurants with white friends, Carson recalls that he could sometimes eat in the back of the restaurant while his friends were seated in the front. Carson remembers that some of his Black colleagues did not want to drive down to Orangeburg, South Carolina because of racial violence there. While on the road, Carson always brought food and gas with him in case he could not find a place that he could stop at. Carson says that it was hurtful when he was not allowed into the same restaurants as his white friends, but refused the offers from his friends to demand he be let in. Carson explains that he did not want to risk escalating the situation by making a scene about being refused service in the restaurant.

Keywords: East Bernstadt (Ky.); The South; Hauling coal; Whites; Treatment; Meals

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; London (Ky.); Laurel County (Ky.); Segregation; Nineteen sixties; Nineteen fifties; Restaurants; North Carolina; Georgia; Travel; Truck drivers; Hotels; Sons; Hospitals; Surgery; Race; Racism; Prejudice; Discrimination; Manchester (Ky.); Violence; Fear; Orangeburg (S.C.); Food; Cooking; Independence; Atlanta (Ga.); Holiday Inns, Inc

95:08 - Views on race / final thoughts

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Partial Transcript: --Did you have any feelings about you know, what was going on with the civil rights and you would read about it in the paper . . .

Segment Synopsis: Carson does not necessarily agree with some of the tactics used by civil rights leaders, such as going to segregated restaurants. Ultimately, Carson believes that it is fine for people to do any kind of activity as long as it is legal. Carson describes his close friendships with whites he grew up with in East Bernstadt. Carson and his white neighbor also worked together to restore their gardens when a flood wiped out all their crops. Carson's friends from his trucking days are also mostly white. Carson emphasizes his commitment to having a strong work ethic his whole life, from hauling coal as a child to his retirement from truck driving with an award for safe driving.

Keywords: Whites; Hauling coal; Favors; Semi-trucks; East Bernstadt (Ky.)

Subjects: Blacks; African Americans; Laurel County (Ky.); London (Ky.); Race; Racism; Prejudice; Discrimination; Money; Coal; Coal miners; Coal mines and mining; Kindness; Wood; Neighbors; Gardening; Cooperation; Tractor trailers; Trucks; Truck drivers; Friendship; Civil rights; Civil rights movement; Segregation; Work ethic; Values