Christine Whitaker, Rag Sale Store Owner; Blackey, Kentucky:
“I run this rag sale. I’ve been doing it for 46 years. Before that, I was an income tax preparer. I did that part time while I was in here. I’m 80, soon be 81. I live about a quarter of a mile down the road, down below Blackey. [I’ve lived here] most all my life.
Our family moved to Baltimore, Maryland when I was about eight years old. We stayed there maybe a year. My Dad couldn’t find work around here, so he went there and worked in a shipyard. He quit that, and come back [and] worked at the coal mines for a while. Then, he went to Indiana and we had to go there and stay about a year or two. After that, we come from there [and] we never did leave anymore. We just didn’t like it. He liked it all right but we didn’t. We had to come back to the mountains.
I’ve got a twin sister, an identical twin sister, so that was kindly complicated in a way. People [were] always thinkin’ that I was her, or she was me. Caused a lot of confusion. She’d do something, and they’d blame me for it, or I’d do something, and they’d blame her. At school, we’d get in trouble sometimes. I’d have to take her punishment and she’d take my punishment. Yeah, [it all come out in the wash]. And I had another sister, an older sister.
We had a good life. We really did. Just like other normal kids I guess, play and work. Our parents made us work in the garden, and we didn’t like that too good. We raised about everything we eat. Back then, we didn’t have bug spray to spray our beans and they’d make us go to the bean patch, pickin’ the bugs off and put ‘em in a bottle.
We had pigs, chickens, cows, and [an] ol’ mule to plow with. That was pretty good ‘cause we’d get to ride the ol’ mule. When Dad would go to get him to bring him to the barn every evenin’ we’d go with him, and then ride the ol’ mule back to the barn. It was our job to feed the pigs and the cows and the chickens and all that.
When I got out of high school, I went to Indiana and stayed a while and worked out there. I worked in an office [and] I stayed there maybe a year, or two. Then, I come back and went to work in Whitesburg in the county extension office. I worked there until I got married. Oh yeah, [I missed the mountains]. I didn’t like that. Never was satisfied until I come back home. Just nothing like the good ol’ country people.
When we was workin’ in Indiana, they would make fun of us just because we was from Kentucky. They looked down on us kinda, I guess you’d say. Sometimes, I think they [the media] kinda look down on us, too. They should show some of the better things instead of the bad things.
I’ve enjoyed [the store] for the 46 years I’ve been here. I feel like I’m helping the people that need help. If they can’t afford to buy something, I’ll swap something for them. Just trade around like the swap shop. I have children’s clothes, shoes; just different kinds of clothes, sweaters, pants and whatever. Then, we have books and odds and ends. Just a little bit of this and a little bit of that I.
We get a lot of it from donations. People donate a lot of stuff to us. Then there’s places my husband has always went and bought stuff. Churches you now, they’ll have sales and they’ll have some left and he’ll buy it like that. I’ve had a lot of enjoyment from this. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be with it, but I’ve enjoyed it long as I can.
[My husband’s] been real good to help me with my store. I couldn’t do it if he didn’t help me, especially in the wintertime. I have to heat with coal, so he comes out and builds my fire for me. That’s a big help. He helps me haul stuff in here. Some days, if I don’t feel good, he comes out and stays here all day.
He was a mechanic. He worked in a garage for several years, and then he worked in the mines as a mechanic. That’s where he retired from, was the coalmines.
He’s been retired about 20 some years I guess. He’s 83 years old, so he’s been retired quite a while. He likes working with wood. He’s made furniture for my bathroom, like a hamper, trash bin, and chest of drawers. Makes little things, you know like picture frames, and all kinds of things like that.
I read and I crochet. I crochet doilies, [doll clothes and] all kinds of things. I can do that while I’m in here. When things are kind of slow, I can sit here and crochet. My teacher taught me [to crochet] when I was in the seventh grade [and] I’ve done it ever since. I don’t remember a thing that she taught me in the classes that year, but I do remember to crochet.
I like to read historical romances mostly. I’m not for murders and all that stuff.
I guess I am just a country person. I’d never survive in the city I don’t think. I love the mountains. I’d say it’s a very good place to live. You can relax.”