Rebekah Wallace

“Most people who have drug problems are the best liars…in the world. They can have you believing something even when you know it’s not the truth.”

Rebekah Wallace, Nurse, Professional Case Management; Worthington, Kentucky: 

“I’ve lived in Kentucky my whole life. I was born and raised in Greenup. I moved to Worthington just about four years ago, it’s not even ten minutes from here. I work for PCM, Professional Case Management. They provide in-home nursing care for former nuclear weapons workers through the Department of Labor. Most of their clients have worked at the A Plant in Piketon, Ohio. 

My family lived in town, but my Dad had a really big yard. We lived over on Winifred Street, where most of the blacks in Greenup lived. We lived over there and he had about three or four acres, which is a good-sized yard to be so close to town. I was outside a lot growing up. We had a creek in the back, played in the creek a lot and built dams. My Dad worked at AK Steel, back then it was ARMCO. He also had cleaning jobs right here in town. He cleaned the courthouse, he cleaned Leslie’s drug store, and he cleaned the bank. He worked full time and had four cleaning jobs on the side. At one point, he had about five jobs, all together, and a garden. He was a hard worker. My Mom did some cleaning too; I remember she worked at a shoe store, but most of the time she was with us kids.

We would get to go pick the green beans and strawberries (in my Dad’s garden). I loved that. We were allowed to go pick in the garden, but he wanted to be there when we were doing the picking. He was very particular about it. He always had green beans, potatoes, corn, strawberries, grapes, blackberries, and zucchini. We weren’t allowed to go in the garden without asking. My Mom did a lot of canning; corn, green beans, tomatoes, and she’d make spaghetti sauce with the tomatoes. A whole lot of good, fresh food on the table in the summer. 

We had all kinds of trees around our house. Lots of trees. We were always picking up sticks as kids. That was our job. He’d tell us to go pick up sticks, so we did that a lot. (Laughs) 

I have six sisters and two brothers. When I was little, there were nine kids in the house for a short period of time. By that time my oldest brother was off on his own and then my sister got married. ‘Course that’s still a lot! Seven of us in the house. I enjoy coming from a big family. It can be a little trying at times, but I liked having older brothers and sisters. Growing up, my parents mainly just expected us help out and work and mind your manners. That was the main thing at that time. Do as you’re told. My Dad, he was more the authoritative type. My Mom...I didn’t get in trouble often, but you know, I was a kid. One time I broke my older brother’s sunglasses that I wasn’t supposed to have. If I got a whipping, Mom would be the one to give me the whipping. Not necessarily my Dad. He did a few times. We got discipline. We got switches. We always went to church. I’ve gone to church all my life. They were big on Bible study. They both took a part in that. They really instilled in us what the Bible teaches; to live your life by the Bible. That was their main thing as far as what they expected of us. They wanted us to live life as a Christian. 

Before I was married and had kids, when I was able to, I never really thought about moving then. I was so much of a home baby. I’d get homesick, I’d miss my Mom. Even when I went on vacations with my cousin when I was like 13 or something I’d get so homesick. At that time, I never really thought about it. But then after I had kids and stuff I thought, you know, if I was single, if I didn’t have kids, it would be kind of nice. I have a sister who lives in Greenville, South Carolina, and it’s such a nice area. 

I like to get away and go on vacation and visit places. I love to travel. I’ve been to different places in Florida. We go to Destin and vacation there. I’ve been to New York City about four times. I’ve been to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh. I’ve been to Dallas, Texas a couple times. I’ve never been outside the United States, though. I would like to travel abroad; I would like to do that. I enjoy traveling, but it is nice to get back home. I’ve been to Washington, DC [and] I’d like to take my kids there hopefully next year. 

I have four kids aged 16, 14, 11 and 10. I’m single now, thank goodness. It’s been hard. Even when we were together, I was pretty much raising the kids. He had a very bad drug problem and he put us through the wringer. It’s physically hard, but it’s also mentally hard. Everything falls on you. He’s been in and out of prison, which is where he is right now. 

I was working at AK Steel at the time and bought my first house. I lost the house. Everything was due to his drug problem. I had to take my purse in the bathroom with me so he wouldn’t steal my money. I could write a book about that. [He was addicted to] painkillers, which is so bad in this area. He didn’t have an injury, he just picked it up. He had had some issues with it before we got married, [but] not when I met him. When I met him he was clean and wasn’t using or anything. I led a very sheltered life and that was just something I knew nothing of. I had very strict parents. We got to do things and have fun as kids, but my Dad was strict. I was sheltered and I didn’t really know a lot, didn’t really date a lot or anything like that. Anyhow, that was just something I knew nothing of. I knew about it but I didn’t know red flags and stuff like that at the time. Of course now, looking back... 

At first I tried to shield my kids from it. When they’ve been let down so many times, I got to the point where I had to be a little more blunt about what he did and what was going on. You get tired of seeing them let down so much, getting their hopes built up and being on that roller coaster. You think things are going to go good, and then they just do the complete opposite. I got to the point where I didn’t want them to have these expectations anymore because it’s just too hard on them. I’m very up front about how I feel about it and I don’t want that life to happen to them. 

[Red flags for a drug problem include] Changes in the mood. When somebody is really over the top happy and then maybe you don’t hear from them for a few days. They can give you every excuse in the book. Most people who have drug problems are the best liars. You can’t put it any other way. They’re the best liars in the world. They can have you believing something even when you know it’s not the truth. That’s just how good they are. The main thing to look for I believe is the mood swings, and changes in sleeping patterns.

The mentality that people have here is special. They’re more laid back because it is a Southern atmosphere where we are. It’s just friendly. That’s what I like about it. Friendly and laid back and family oriented. I like small towns. 

When I watch the news and the person that they pick to interview [from Appalachia], I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, why? They could’ve interviewed somebody that had some teeth!’ (Laughs). You do see that a lot around here, but there are so many around here that aren’t like that. There are a lot of good people in Appalachia. We’re a very hospitable bunch of people and we welcome you. We have big aspirations for what we want and what we want for our family. We have dreams just like other people do. Just because we’re in a small town, doesn’t mean we have small thinkin’. 

These past four years, I’ve had the most stability that I’ve ever had. I have my home, have a steady income. My kids are in school and doing good. All three of my boys play football and they love it. I enjoy going to their games. 

I’m in the process of starting my own little side business in addition to what I do. I’m meeting with the health department to get my permit so that I can start my own business. I’m going to be making cinnamon rolls and marshmallows. In Kentucky, I can’t actually do it out of my home. I have to have a commercial kitchen. As long as it’s a commercial kitchen that’s all that matters. The one I’m going to use is out of Corby’s Tea Room. Corby, he has businesses himself and I’m going to be working out of his kitchen. 

I thought about calling [the business] Miss Hazel’s Kitchen. Hazel Jackson was my grandma, my Mom’s mom. She was known for her old fashioned fudge. She made chocolate and she made white fudge. It was so good and so creamy [and] she was known for that. She was a very good cook and baker and all that. I used to watch her make candy. I’m the only one in the family who makes the fudge now, and it took me a long time to learn it. It takes a lot of patience making that stuff! Cinnamon rolls, I’ve been making those for a long time and over the years I’ve got them to where I think they’re really good. I always make them at the end of the school year so the kids can take them to school. People just know of them and they ask me about them, so I just thought that would be something good to do. 

(My grandmother) was known for her transparent pies. I think that’s mainly a southern thing. She would make the little tarts. It’s like eggs and sugar and butter and it may have some corn syrup in it. The sugar it forms a little crust on the top. Oh they’re so good! My sister Carla, she’s the one that’s carried on that. She makes the transparent pies and brings them to every reunion. She’s the pie-maker. I have never had any better than what she makes. 

I just started doing the marshmallows this year. I don’t know how I came across it or why, but I never thought about making marshmallows. I watched some videos on YouTube and I follow a couple people on Instagram and that’s all they do is make marshmallows, that’s their business. As old as I am, I’d never had a homemade marshmallow until this year. My Mom had never had a homemade marshmallow and she’s in her seventies. So I’m thinking, how many other people have never had a homemade marshmallow? I thought it would be something new and different. You wouldn’t believe the stuff you can do with a marshmallow! 

I don’t know how I’m going to do everything, but I’m just trying to take it a step at a time. Got to get my permit. I’ve got me a little canopy and I thought I could set up at Old Fashioned Days here, and have me a little booth set up at shows, fairs. Also, I’m going to be able to sell some things out of Corby’s shop so I’m excited about that. It’s something different and I’ve always wanted to do something on my own like that. 

I like it here. I’m a home girl. I like Greenup, but I do have a lot of aspirations for my kids and myself. I just want to provide the best I can for them. I want to be remembered as a good person, a good mom. I took care of my kids. I raised my kids. [I was] someone that lived their life in a good way. 

I feel like I’m tryin’ to brag or something (laughs).”