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2006-12-06 Interview with Paul Graham, December 6, 2006 CC001:2007OH039CC14 00:46:11 History of Kentucky's Community Colleges Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College Paul Graham; interviewee John Klee; interviewer 2007OH039_CC14_Graham 1:|21(6)|46(2)|56(2)|67(9)|107(4)|122(15)|139(2)|165(12)|184(8)|209(6)|226(5)|245(11)|275(9)|319(5)|333(4)|355(6)|380(6)|406(10)|441(4)|460(3)|493(2)|518(5)|546(7)|583(9)|617(11)|638(7)|654(7)|669(8)|687(11)|717(3)|738(12)|759(6)|794(7)|820(11)|857(2)|900(1)|934(4)|960(1)|972(9)|992(5)|1015(6)|1035(7)|1066(4)|1082(12)|1104(6)|1130(2) audiotrans CommuColl interview KLEE: The following is an unrehearsed interview by John Klee for the Community College System Oral History Project, part of the University of Kentucky's Collection. The interview is being conducted in -- at Southeast Community College in Cumberland, Kentucky. And I'm talking to Paul Graham here at the college on December 6, 2006. Mr. Graham, start telling me about your background. Where were you born? GRAHAM: Well first off, I'd like to tell you about how I happened to be here. KLEE: All right. GRAHAM: When I came here, a long time ago, I was forced into it because it was in the middle of the worst part of the Depression. KLEE: Yes, sir. GRAHAM: I'd just got out of college and couldn't find a job anywhere. And I finally drifted over here, hoping to just find anything, you know, so I could exist. And I was fortunate enough to get a job at Benham, Kentucky, in a coal mine. And I meant to leave just as soon as I got enough money to get out of here on. But after a month or two, I changed my mind. I fell in love with the people around here and the place. Stayed here, raised my family here, and intend to die here. I even have my tombstone already up. KLEE: So what year did you come here? GRAHAM: I came over here in 1936. KLEE: 1936. Tell me about Benham and Lynch and Cumberland in that time period. GRAHAM: Except for Cyrus Hall McCormick, Benham wouldn't be here. I'll explain that in a minute. KLEE: Okay. GRAHAM: This is a good grade of coal, this area, some of the best in the world. Everybody that was interested in coal or the use of coal was interested in coal in this area, you see. This Cyrus Hall McCormick, the fellow that invented the reaper -- KLEE: Yes, sir. GRAHAM: He got that thing invented about, I think, 1843. And he said, "That thing is going to work. And I'm going to build a factory and produce that thing." He did it over in North Carolina. And he said, "We don't grow much wheat here. I guess I better go to Illinois or Iowa or somewhere where they really grow wheat." So he went to Chicago and built his factory. And it thrived. And before long, they were making everything used on a farm, besides reapers, you know. And by the time that he passed away, it was a big company. They merged with another company or two and changed their name a time or two. But it was actually turned into be the International Harvester Company. He -- I can imagine -- I don't know this for a fact -- I can imagine they said -- somebody said, "Why are we buying steel? Why don't we build us a steel mill and make our own steel?" So you have to have coal to make steel, or did back then. And he sent an engineer down here to these mountains in Kentucky to find coal, and they bought everything you can see from this area. Thousands and thousands of -- nobody knows how many acres exactly. And I've been told, from a fellow I think that got the information from his grandpa, they bought all of this mountain land for a quarter an acre. I'll bypass this subject in just a minute. Eight years later, US Steel came in here. World War I was about to come on or had come along, and they were needing more steel to make more war material and stuff. So Harvester said, "We just have bought too much land. We'll sell you most of ours. We don't want a lot of mines like you all. We just want one mine. That's because we're going to use our own coal, we're not going to sell it." KLEE: I see. GRAHAM: So they sold Lynch, Kentucky, what is now Lynch, a big part of their -- probably 75 percent of what they bought, for 50 cents an acre. (Laughter -- Klee) And then Lynch by 1918 had a mine going. KLEE: So International Harvester was first? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: Then they sold the property at Lynch. Benham was International Harvester's town, so to speak? GRAHAM: Correct. KLEE: And Lynch was -- GRAHAM: US Steel. KLEE: And Cumberland had pre-existed a little bit? GRAHAM: Yes, sir. KLEE: The community was here, but not for a long time, I don't guess? GRAHAM: Well, I -- quite a while. KLEE: Oh, was it? GRAHAM: Yeah. And I'd like to tell you a little bit about how Benham got started, if you don't mind? KLEE: Sure, I'd love it. GRAHAM: There were not enough people around here to mine coal. KLEE: I see. GRAHAM: I mean, there just weren't any, hardly. People come in here -- came in here from Virgina and North Carolina and South Carolina. And they came through the Cumberland Gap down here at Middlesboro, Kentucky. And they didn't stay in these mountains; they went on through into the Bluegrass. By the time Harvester bought this property, there were just a few old farmers around here, you know. So they proceeded to build a town, and they built it for all the needs of the people who had to live in it. They -- it's strange to say so, but they -- it was rental property. They wouldn't sell you a house in Benham. They wouldn't sell anybody a house, because they had to have somebody there that they know would stay and mine coal, see. And you know how much trouble one house can be to rent. Can you -- they built a town with 536 houses in it, and they maintained it. Painted all the houses every four years. And if you got a window light broke out, you just called the company and told them, "The kid threw a ball through my window down here." "Okay. We'll come down and fix it." That's the way -- and they built churches. They built Protestant church, Catholic Churches, black and white churches, because segregation existed back then. KLEE: Right. GRAHAM: And they -- this went on for -- until1961, because before that time, there were no roads here. There were no railroads here. And by that time, they had cars and had the railroad. Of course, they got railroad to Benham right away in the early -- right after 1900 they got the L&N to run a railroad up here. KLEE: Let me ask you about some of the things you've told me already. When they ran -- they had this town, everything was run through the company administration, the coal and the housing and the employment -- GRAHAM: Everything, from Chicago. They had a guesthouse for the people who'd come down on business or just to take a vacation. They called it the Chicago House. KLEE: Is that right? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: Is it still standing? GRAHAM: Still standing, but a man's remodeled it till you wouldn't rec- -- I'm going to take you up there and show you some of that stuff, if you have time, I mean. And -- KLEE: So you came here in 1936. You were a young man in your 20s? GRAHAM: Yes, sir. KLEE: And you were mining coal. What was that like? Were you deep- mining? GRAHAM: Well, yeah. That's all Benham's ever had, was deep mining, you know. We didn't go down or up -- we went up for it from were we lived, but it was -- we called ours a drift mine. It came out and drifted down to where it would be shipped, you see. KLEE: Pretty dangerous work? GRAHAM: Oh, Lord. I tell people to whom I lecture there's been nothing worse in the world to work at and make a living, except maybe one thing. When they built the pyramids in Egypt, that might have been a little worse than coal mining. KLEE: The slaves might have had it a little worse, huh? GRAHAM: Yeah, I mean it was terrible. Gases in there, and when you'd -- coal mining is just a matter of building -- digging tunnels. You go -- usually they go straight from where they enter the mine to the other side with a tunnel. Then they branch off from that, right and left. Then they get in there, they come together. It's just like -- you have to leave a little coal in there to hold the mountain up, you see. They do that with timbers. And finally when they work this area out and they would like for the thing just to fall in, by that time the timbers have rotted, you know, and they will fall. Sometimes it will crack the earth several hundred feet up above there. The earth will crack where it's fallen in down there, you know. KLEE: So you've seen that happen? GRAHAM: Yeah, a little bit. Now, I never did work underground, I must tell you that. I was what they called a company man. KLEE: You came in -- you had a college education. GRAHAM: Yes, sir. KLEE: You didn't tell me -- we didn't get back to that point. Let me ask you that. You said you were going to Virginia? GRAHAM: Yes. Went to college at a Methodist school, a sister school to Union down here at Barbourville. KLEE: And got out of college, and of course looked, around for work. GRAHAM: Yeah. I spent a month in Kingsport, Tennessee, because a lot of factories over there. And I finally went broke. I didn't know what I was going to do, because -- I happened to remember a couple that got married two or three years before, and he got over there and got on the Fire Department. Their family was a friend of my family. I went to him, and I said, "Listen, I'm -- I can't find a job. I've been over here a month and I can't find a job, and I need help." I said, "Could you all put me up for a few days until I can get -- do better?" (Laughter -- Graham). "I mean, I'm broke, and I mean, I'm hungry now. I'm hungry now." KLEE: Where was this at? Was this in Kingsport or -- GRAHAM: In Kingsport, yeah, yeah. So they put me up for three or four days. I was just walking through town, looking for -- anybody I saw, "Could I have -- could you tell me where I can find a job?" Saw an old man sitting on a -- in front of his business, a dry cleaning plant. And I stopped and talked to him a minute and told him my circumstances. He said, "You wouldn't want to work for me, would you?" I said, "I'd work for anybody, and I'll do anything." He said, "I've got a big plant here, and I do good work, and I could use more -- I could do more business. I've been seriously considering sending a truck to Kentucky, which is some 60 miles and across Big Black Mountain. You wouldn't be interested in that, would you?" I said, "I told you. I'll do anything." (Laughter -- Klee) "Be down here in the morning at 5 o'clock, and we'll go over there and see if those coal companies will let us solicit dry cleaning in their town, you know, from out of state." KLEE: Yes, sir. GRAHAM: So I did. We came over here. And they said, "Why, yeah. We don't care who comes in. That's up to them." And I did that for about two years. I drove six days a week all the way -- KLEE: Man! GRAHAM: -- to Kingsport. And finally, our employment agent there at Benham came out on the steps of the office and flagged me down. And a lot of people did that, they'd flag me down. They -- ----------(??) send me to the house and get a suit of clothes to dry clean, you know. But he said, "Would you like to have a job with this company?" I said, "Oh man, what are you talking about? I'd give my eye teeth for it." He said, "I don't have anything right now, but I've been watching and I see the way you operate. I'm going to keep you in mind." I said, "Please do." KLEE: You don't remember who that was, do you? GRAHAM: John Mowat, M-O-W-A-T. KLEE: He was the one that kind of -- GRAHAM: He was the employment agent KLEE: Uh-huh. GRAHAM: They put me in the commissary as a clerk. And I hated that worse than anything I've ever done on this side of the mountain. KLEE: When you say the commissary, that's -- GRAHAM: The company store. KLEE: The company store. GRAHAM: Yeah. We bought everything there. They -- the company, when they built the town, they provided everything for us, schools and-- KLEE: So the Benham school was a company-run school? GRAHAM: No, it wasn't company-run, but it was independent. KLEE: Okay. But they helped build it, then? GRAHAM: And on top of that, they sent us money, supplemented our teachers. KLEE: I see. GRAHAM: And we got the best teachers in the state of Kentucky for a long time. KLEE: Because they were helping on the salary? GRAHAM: Yeah, because they were helping on the salary. KLEE: Now, at this commissary -- you know, I've always heard of company scrip and so forth. Did they pay the employees in money or scrip? GRAHAM: Money. KLEE: They didn't go that route? GRAHAM: No. KLEE: Who were some of those early people you were working with at International Harvester? GRAHAM: Who were some of them? KLEE: Some of the company men, the higher-ups. GRAHAM: Well, let me see. My memory -- I told you earlier, my memory's kind of bad. Let me see -- maybe before we get through talking, maybe I'll remember one or two. KLEE: That's all right. That's fine. GRAHAM: I dealt with several of them before I got through up there. KLEE: You worked at the commissary. Where did you move from there? GRAHAM: One day, they -- my boss, the store manager, said, "The superintendent wants to see you." You know, I was an old country boy, and I dreaded meeting new people. I said, "What does he want?" He said, "I don't know what he wants." (Laughter - both) I went over there, and he greeted me and everything. And he said, "Our production is dropping off a little bit. Our foremen in the mines are having to come out to the office to order stuff and receive it when it comes and all that stuff. They need to be in there with their men all the time. We're thinking about -- we've never had one, but we're thinking about sending a mine clerk up there. You're the first one we thought of." And I said, "Yes, sir. I'll be glad to have it." I was wanting to get out of that store. I hated that thing. And he said, "No, I want you to think about it." I said, "I don't have to think about it." When he first told me, he said, "Two of your buddies over there have already turned it down." They'd been here a long time, you know. I said, "I don't care who turned it down. I want it." I was making $90 a month in the store. And he said -- he talked through his nose. He was an old man. He said (imitating him), "You've been making $90 a month down there and working six days. We're going to pay you $110 a month, and you'll just work five days a week up there." Law, I thought I'd -- by that time I'd got married. I thought I'd never -- the day would never end, I could get home and tell my wife that I got a day knocked off my work week and a raise, you know. KLEE: So that made the decision for you? GRAHAM: Yes, sir. And that's how I got started, and I was promoted. I'll not go into all -- KLEE: No, I'm interested in all that, interested in your story. GRAHAM: Well, I'll -- KLEE: So you -- do you remember about what year you were promoted to mine clerk? You said you started in '36. GRAHAM: Not mine -- yeah, mine clerk. That was '39. KLEE: '39. Now the '30s, of course, was the Depression. Did International Harvester -- were they able to attract employees pretty easily because people were looking for work? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah. And they were so good to us because they wanted a happy workforce. KLEE: Yes, sir. GRAHAM: And they'd send -- the Fourth of July, they'd sent a lot of ice cream and stuff, and have something -- a ballgame or something for us. And at Christmastime, they'd send truckloads of gifts for the children. KLEE: Is that right? GRAHAM: Oh, there wasn't -- there was never a better company to work for here at Benham. They didn't have that good a reputation in some of their factories for making their trucks and stuff, but they were good to us here. KLEE: Now, US Steel was operating at the same time, weren't they? GRAHAM: They started eight years later. We started -- our first load of coal went out of Benham, August, 1911. KLEE: I see. And Lynch, then, was 1919? GRAHAM: Somewhere along in there, uh-huh. KLEE: The Lynch -- the US Steel employees were unionized, I believe, weren't they? GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. KLEE: What did -- did that cause problems for your employees? GRAHAM: Yeah, one of the worst problems Harvester ever had. They -- of course, they didn't try to organize them for a while. And the people were so happy with their work here, their treatment, they didn't want a union. And when the United Mine Workers got a raise, Harvester gave them the same raise with a little added to it. KLEE: I see. GRAHAM: And finally they came in here to organize, whether we wanted it or not. The men didn't want it. We had three bad gun battles. KLEE: Oh, is that right? GRAHAM: Yeah, 1938 was one, 1942 was another, and 1948 was the last one. KLEE: Is that right? GRAHAM: People were killed, several. We -- they'd slip their men out that got killed. We never did know how many were killed. But they got up on one of these ridges and shot at us. KLEE: As you all were getting in and out of the mines or out of your work? GRAHAM: Just wherever they saw you out. They shot in people's hou- -- people's yards. They killed a few of our people. KLEE: And it was all over voting in a union or not? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: I guess you had people on both sides. GRAHAM: Finally the government told them, "You're going to have to join some kind of union to get them off your back, you know, if you don't want to join them." And they joined the Progressive Miners Union [Progressives Miners of America] up in Illinois. KLEE: Uh- huh. GRAHAM: And that's the only union they ever -- KLEE: Uh-huh. Did that union have -- did International Harvester and that group get along pretty well? GRAHAM: Yeah, it worked very well. KLEE: I don't want to leave those gun battles. You were married what year? Do you remember? GRAHAM: '38. KLEE: '38. So that first gun battle was when you were a newlywed. And while you had -- were you afraid for your own life? GRAHAM: Yes, sir. I almost left here, but I toughed it out. KLEE: People that worked for the company were particular targets? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah. That's who they wanted to -- my job as a clerk was up on the side of the mountain where the mine went in. And one day -- the day before this, a fellow had got killed out on the highway. And I heard shooting again that next day. And I though it sounded like at the same place, so I ran out to where I could see down to the highway, and they shot at me. They hit the rail. They had mine -- steel rail track for the mine cars to come out on. Hit that rail, and it spun off out there about 30 or 40 feet. I run and picked it up. It was hot; I had to throw it down. (Laughter -- Klee). Later I went back and got the bullet and gave it to the company, you know, as evidence. KLEE: Is that right? Now, was that in '38 or '42? GRAHAM: '38. KLEE: '38. GRAHAM: No, I beg your pardon, I was '42. KLEE: You were thinking about leaving, maybe? GRAHAM: Yeah, I did. Then it was quiet for a few years up till '48, and one of the organizers was shot right in front of our company store. And the hospital was across the street there. The nurses ran out and dragged him in, and he told people later on he never was treated better in his life. (Laughter - Graham) KLEE: One of the union organizers, then, was treated in the company hospital. GRAHAM: (Laughter) KLEE: Now, I stayed in the School House Inn last night. And that coal museum is right across the street. There were probably a whole lot more buildings down there at one time? GRAHAM: No. KLEE: Oh, that was it, then. GRAHAM: This school building wasn't built to start with. They -- the first high school they built was way up on the side of the mountain. They didn't stop to think about -- there wasn't any thing back then, you know -- KLEE: Didn't have to worry about snow and buses? GRAHAM: That's right. But by 1928 -- that's when the first class graduated -- they said, "Listen, we need to get down off that hill and build a school down here." So they graded -- there was a church, a community church right where the schoolhouse is. And they graded that down and made it level there. And there was a hotel where your parking lot was -- where your parking lot is. KLEE: Uh-huh. GRAHAM: And they moved the church over beside the school. KLEE: And the museum building, that was the old International -- GRAHAM: Commissary, store. KLEE: Commissary, store. Okay. GRAHAM: And they didn't have a meat market in that big group. They built another -- they called it the meat market. They build another building. They didn't want that meat business in the same -- KLEE: In the same place. So they had a meat market and the commissary? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: What about the headquarters of the company, then? GRAHAM: What about the -- KLEE: I mean, where was the building at where they were headquartered? Same place there with the commissary? GRAHAM: Yeah, right by -- what is City Hall now. KLEE: Okay, okay. GRAHAM: Been that way so long, I never thought to explain it. KLEE: Okay. I was going to ask you, when you first came down here and worked with the company, what was your equipment they were using in the mine? Was that -- were they still using animals and carts? GRAHAM: By that time -- hey, one thing I'm about to forget to tell you, we didn't have utilities here then. So they had to build a power plant, fired by coal, make steam, make electricity. And they finally ran electricity all over town. Every house -- every room in every house had one light hanging down right in the middle of the building, and you had to reach up and pull a little -- KLEE: That's when electricity started? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: And was that after you got here or was that there when you -- GRAHAM: It was already here. KLEE: Uh-huh. How long did that power plant run? GRAHAM: Just -- I don't know the year, but the first -- when the utilities came in here, why, of course -- KLEE: They replaced it then. GRAHAM: -- bought from the utility then. KLEE: Sure. Did the war affect your job any, as far as men working -- GRAHAM: Kept me out of the service. KLEE: I see. GRAHAM: They said I -- by that time, I was handling the dynamite that they have to shoot the coal to break it up so they can load it. KLEE: That was a pretty dangerous job, wasn't it? GRAHAM: Yeah. Not for me, it wasn't. I knew who was supposed to get it. They was afraid of sabotage, you know. KLEE: Sure. GRAHAM: Said, "Listen here, you're -- you know all about the powder business and who's supposed to have it and everything. And you've kept up with it ever since you've been up there. Could we request that you not go to service?" I said, "I don't want to sound like I wouldn't go, but I don't care a bit if -- ." KLEE: Right. That was fine with you, then, wasn't it? GRAHAM: That was fine with me. KLEE: Did you have trouble keeping employees? I mean, a lot of men were drafted. GRAHAM: Oh, yeah, yeah. Now, women didn't get in the mining until several years later. KLEE: Uh-huh. GRAHAM: Maybe a little bit before World War II was over they were -- KLEE: There were some women in the mines? GRAHAM: -- several women ----------(??) go in the mines. Uh-huh. KLEE: So how long did you work for Harvester? GRAHAM: Thirty years. KLEE: So from '36 to '66? GRAHAM: '68. KLEE: '68, I'm sorry. And what kind of changes did you see after the war? GRAHAM: Oh, man, they were tremendous. By '61, the company said, "They've got roads down there now and they've got cars. And we need to get out of the real estate business." So they sold us their town. Whoever lived in this particular house could buy it. But somebody had to buy it, and if they didn't want it, well, you're going to have to get out anyway. I bought a neat little six-room cottage for $1,126, I believe it was. KLEE: I was going to ask you, were their prices reasonable? GRAHAM: It was unbelievable. KLEE: (Laughter) GRAHAM: It was unbelievable. They gave us $40,000 to get organized a little bit. And gave us all the public buildings, the store, the hospital, all the churches. KLEE: Gave it to the community of Benham. GRAHAM: My superintendent of the mine said -- like I told you, ours was a community church up to that time. But for some reason or other, Methodists had always provided pastors for it. And my superintendent, I'd got to be a good friend with him by that time. It was a different man from the one that hired me earlier. "Paul, what am I going to do with a church?" I said, "I'm going to tell you what I'd like to do with it, but you can do whatever you want to." I said, "I'd like for us to join the Kentucky Conference of the Methodist Church." He said, "That's all I want to know." And that's what happened. KLEE: So you were in on those discussions on how to get the town out of the company's hands. GRAHAM: By then I was. I tried to be a good foreman. By that time, I was foreman, too, you know. I was a foreman for fifteen years. We owned -- Harvester owned -- bought 500 railroad cars when they started mining coal. We had the home shop here at Benham. And that's the first -- first they set me up there as a bookkeeper. The man that was there wanted to leave or something. And it was a pretty complicated job, but I had it mastered. And one day my foreman over that operation went home and fell dead. He called me -- the superintendent called me up there and said, "Paul, your boss died a while ago." Said, "Take over up there Monday morning." I said -- KLEE: This was at the shop for the railroad cars? GRAHAM: He said, "Take over up there Monday morning." I said -- it was Friday, that day. I said, "I can't do that." "Why can't you?" I said, "I don't know enough about it." I said, "I know the book part of it perfectly. I can handle that, but I couldn't teach a boy how to weld." I had -- there was 25 men. We could build -- we built cars. We could build a car in about four or five days up there. He said, "We'll help you. You go on up there." I went up there Monday morning, and I told them what was going on. I said, "Now, you people can make me or break me." I said, "You all know me well." And I'd made friends with all of them, you know. I'm pretty good at making friends. And he said -- "I can promise you one thing, I'll be fair and I'll treat you as good as I can, and I'll be fair." And buddy, they just fell in behind me and just -- they saw me through the thing. I was so pleased that that bunch of men supported me like that. KLEE: What time period was that? Was that in the '50s or the '40s? GRAHAM: What would be fifteen years from '68? That's when it would be. KLEE: I've got to do my math here, '53. In the '50s. GRAHAM: Yeah, that's when it was. They sent me to Chicago to foreman's school. I guess it was probably the first time I'd ever ridden a train. KLEE: So you said that in '61, when they decided sell the houses and they gave the churches in the community -- gave the buildings away, was International Harvester downsizing at that time a little bit too, getting smaller? GRAHAM: Yeah. They almost went broke along at that period, you know. KLEE: I see. GRAHAM: And they just -- KLEE: At the height of -- what decade do you think would you all have the most employees? What decade was the town the largest? GRAHAM: During World War I. KLEE: World War I? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: Even before you came, it was even bigger? GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. KLEE: Okay. GRAHAM: Yeah, because the demand for their -- what they had manufactured too, you know. Our population was about 3,500. Now it's barely 600. When they started mining with machines, people left here by the thousands, you know. KLEE: Uh-huh. Well, as the town and community changed, one of the things that -- you all said you had a little hospital there at Benham. I guess it closed down then? GRAHAM: Yes. KLEE: And there was a -- I just heard this morning, there was a chance of getting the -- an Appalachian Hospital here. Do you remember that in the '50s? They talked about building it, I guess, here in Cumberland. GRAHAM: Yeah. I guess I do. It's been so long. KLEE: It didn't -- it was unsuccessful. This Mr. Newman was a superintendent. Tell me about him. GRAHAM: He was an educated man. And he was a -- he was in the -- he went to Europe in the war, World War I -- I mean World War II. And they got in Germany's mines over there, and he had a job mining coal. KLEE: Is that right? GRAHAM: So when he came back here, they just hired him to take over our operation here. KLEE: So he was there about -- some of the same -- the whole decade that you were there? 1950 -- 1961 is what I've got written down. GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: What kind of person was he to work for? GRAHAM: Oh, he was a wonderful. I never feared my superiors. I didn't take advantage of any of them for my benefit or anything. I won their confidence, and I was very fortunate in that respect, you know. KLEE: There was talk of building a college here. And this Mr. Newman, I guess, was supportive? GRAHAM: He's the man that went to the company in Chicago and said, "They need a -- . they've been talking about a college in that .area down there, and they need it. There's a beautiful place just out of Cumberland down there, would be a good place for it. It'd certainly be appreciated if you all would just give them that land." And they did. KLEE: Do you know who he was dealing with up there? GRAHAM: No, I don't. KLEE: Do you know if it was a tough discussion or -- GRAHAM: No, uh-huh. No. KLEE: So you say he had to go to Chicago to do that? GRAHAM: Well, he just went up there to ask them to do it. They did it willingly. KLEE: Is that right? GRAHAM: Oh Lord, yeah. KLEE: How was -- do you remember anything about how that was announced to the community or -- GRAHAM: Well, of course, the papers were full of it when they got to talking about it, you know. You can imagine how these hillbillies jumped on that for news, you know. And of course, they just started out with this building here, the first building. And down through the years, I've seen these other buildings built, you know. KLEE: Tell me about some of the people in the community you think that were instrumental. I talked to Mr. Freeman. His parents I guess, ran the local paper? GRAHAM: Yeah, that's right. KLEE: Tri-City News. Are there any other community leaders that stand out in your mind you think that really made this happen? GRAHAM: Well, everybody connected with the school system were doing everything they could. They wanted it; they seriously wanted it, you know. You know, we had to have a -- between these mountains here, we call them hollers. Hollow, I guess you'd -- is proper. Had to be a school up ever holler, because there were no roads, no buses or anything. You couldn't expect somebody to walk across a mountain to school. We had eight county schools here. KLEE: Is that right? GRAHAM: Yeah. And by 1908 -- I mean 2008, we're going to have one. They've dropped off one every now and then down through the years. KLEE: So now it's going to be one school here in a couple of years, one consolidated school. So all the school people were supportive? GRAHAM: Yeah. Oh Lord, yeah. KLEE: What about -- GRAHAM: And the business people too, you know. KLEE: Pardon? GRAHAM: And the business people in town here. And I guess Harlan would have liked -- would have probably liked it down their way. But the free land's what brought it here, you know. KLEE: I see. That was the big carrot to locate here. GRAHAM: Right. KLEE: Are there any other -- what about local politicians? Was there anybody that stood out as important? GRAHAM: Oh, I never did fool with politics. Of course, they're always there, politicians are, you know. KLEE: Right. GRAHAM: Freeman was a good one too. (Laughter) A good example. KLEE: Right. Did you know Dr. Godbey, the first director here? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: Tell me -- what's your impressions of him? GRAHAM: Oh, just a wonderful man. KLEE: Was he? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah. He was. KLEE: How did he deal with the community? GRAHAM: Well, of course he was down here, and in Benham we stayed pretty much in Benham. Lynch is the same way. KLEE: Uh-huh. GRAHAM: But he was well liked by everybody. KLEE: Did all three of these communities support a community college here? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah. KLEE: They got together on that? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah, man. KLEE: Tell me about some of the -- what -- of course, I guess, US Steel, when did their down period begin? GRAHAM: The same time ours did. KLEE: Was it? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: The -- beginning, I guess, in the '50s and '60s. GRAHAM: When they -- going to mechanical loading coal caused it, you know. KLEE: How important do you think this college is to the community? GRAHAM: It can't be measured. It's just wonderful. KLEE: In what ways? GRAHAM: Well, people are getting an education that would never would have attempted it. KLEE: I see. GRAHAM: Yeah. I've known them by the hundreds. KLEE: That wouldn't have had a chance otherwise? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: Have you been able to come over to the college for events and so forth? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah. I get acquainted with all the -- Bruce Ayers and of all of them, everybody that works here. I'm a people man. I just like to meet people. I -- last winter I sent out 191 Christmas cards. KLEE: Is that right? (Laughter - Graham) Man. That's a job, isn't it? This Mr. Newman, I guess he didn't stay in the area, did he, after he retired? GRAHAM: No, he went to Florida. He got Parkinson's and died a terrible death, I heard. KLEE: But he -- I guess while he was here he enjoyed the community and supported it? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah, yeah. KLEE: A very approachable fellow? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: You don't know who came to him with the idea about the land, do you? GRAHAM: Just when he heard that -- begin talking about a college. KLEE: He volunteered ----------(??). GRAHAM: He jumped onto that in a hurry. KLEE: Uh-huh. I wonder who are some of the people that were involved in those early negotiations? GRAHAM: Well, I can't answer that. I just don't know. KLEE: Right. GRAHAM: Because of my job, when I got to be a foreman, I was -- I had to really work hard to master the thing and hold my own, you know. KLEE: Sure, sure. You said you got married and had a family? GRAHAM: Two children. KLEE: Uh-huh. GRAHAM: They're both retired. KLEE: Is that right? (Laughter) GRAHAM: I volunteer at the museum up there, you know. I went in there and I said, "I'm sad." They said, "What are you sad about? I've never seen you sad before." I said, "My baby boy retired last week." Like I had a half a dozen, you know. And I just got one boy and one girl. KLEE: Did they stay in the area? GRAHAM: No. My daughter went to Northern Kentucky, Kenton County, as a teacher. And her husband did likewise, but he trained to be an accountant. But he got married and they built a house and everything, and the government gave a job, but they'd send him to Nashville one month, couple months later they'd make him to go Washington. After about a year of that running around all over the country, he said, "I'm going to go back to school teaching." He got to be a business manager for that county, Kenton County. He'd get all the records to all the orders for buses together for the Board of Education, you know. Lexington heard about him. And you know, they've got a -- their county and city is together. So they learned that he was doing well up there, and they offered him a job. He said, "No, we've built a second house because there's a few things my wife didn't like about the first one, and we're happy with this one." But four or five years later, they kept raising the price till he went to Lexington. He worked there five years before he retired. They're both retired now. KLEE: You've been around these communities for a long time. What were the biggest events that stand out in your mind? You've talked about those gun battles during the -- during those labor problems. GRAHAM: Well, we had ball teams and hooked up with several -- a little -- what do they call them? Several in the area, Harlan, and over in Virginia. That's one thing that created a lot of interest. KLEE: Baseball teams? GRAHAM: Yeah, baseball teams. KLEE? So you had a little circuit that played? GRAHAM: Yeah. People here in these mountains are pretty inclined to support religion, you know. And we get along pretty well together. I tell everybody that Cumberland's got more liquor stores and more churches than any town -- that's the truth. (Laughter -- both) KLEE: So religion's a big thing? GRAHAM: Oh, yeah. It's just not much beyond normal, but a little bit beyond normal. KLEE: Do you remember when they announced that they were having a school? They said there was a motorcade that went to Frankfort, fundraising. Do you remember any of those events? GRAHAM: Yeah, I never did get in on them, but I kept up with everything like that. They went off and -- KLEE: Is there anything I should have asked you that I didn't get around to? GRAHAM: Well, I'd like to tell you a little more about Benham. KLEE: I'd be interested in it. Go ahead. GRAHAM: They built two huge bath room -- bath buildings, black and white. The buildings, maybe 150 feet long, showers down the walls, you know. No privacy, but the man didn't have to go home dirty. They could hand their clothes up, and they'd have a chain go up a wall, through a pulley and through another pulley, and come down here. They could bring that chain down and lock it over at the wall, and then unlock it and come over here and change clothes, then pull the old wet clothes back up to the ceiling, and they'd dry overnight, you see. And the boys from home would go up there and take a bath too. The company let them do that, you know. KLEE: So you had two big, long bath houses, a black one for black employees, and one for white employees. What was the breakdown on employees, as far as race was concerned? GRAHAM: I'd say 75 and 25, something like that. KLEE: About one African-American for every three white -- GRAHAM: We had several from Europe too. KLEE: Yeah, I understand -- that was -- immigrants came in. Do you remember what countries? Were they Italian or -- GRAHAM: Some were Italian. Then Hungarian probably was the strongest, I guess. KLEE: That was the biggest group? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: How did they fit in the community? GRAHAM: Oh, perfectly. KLEE: Some of their families -- did anybody remain? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: There's descendants of some of those early miners? GRAHAM: A lot of them. Yeah, they were accepted. We all need to go together and have one town here. But boy, they're going to have a time to get it done, because Benham wants to retain their identity and so does Lynch, you know. KLEE: Right. They have their own mayor and fire department and everything? GRAHAM: Yeah, you see, as close we are here -- because Benham and Lynch are together. And we're just a half-mile out of Cumberland. We could have one police force, one water system and electric. Benham, ever since -- I don't know how it happened this way, they buy their electricity from Kentucky Utilities and have their own system. And I have no idea why they decided to do it that way. KLEE: What has Benham lost that is particularly -- you know, that was maybe a landmark before? Any buildings? GRAHAM: The Catholic Church was torn town because when Lynch came in, they built a huge stone building and really nice, just a mile up there to it, you know. So they decided to go up there. I had a man come in here from -- what's that town -- what's that college up there, close to Cincinnati on the Kentucky side of the river? KLEE: Thomas More? GRAHAM: Yeah. He came down here looking for somebody that could tell him -- said, "I've been told there used to be Catholics in Benham." I met him by being a volunteer at the museum, you know. And he said, "Could I see the church?" I said, "They tore it down just as soon as they got out of it and built a dwelling place there. Would you like to see the spot where it was seated?" He said, "Yeah, I sure would." He said, "I plan to write a book." And said, "When I get it written, I'll send you a copy of my book." I never did get it. I don't know whether he ever wrote his book or not. KLEE: What else was there? Anything else that's you've lost that's a landmark -- was a landmark? GRAHAM: Well, the hospital, of course. KLEE: You don't remember what decade it went out, do you? GRAHAM: It went out when they sold the town. KLEE: '61, I see. GRAHAM: I tell you, that's another thing, they sent us good doctors from Chicago. And two of them stayed there, and the third one would come and he'd get a little training, you know, just out of college. And in about three years he'd move on. But boy, we had some good doctors here. KLEE: You said you fell in love with the community and the people? What attracted you? What was it about -- GRAHAM: They're just friendly people. KLEE: Even though it is a little isolated and so forth? GRAHAM: Yeah. KLEE: You felt comfortable here and decided to stay? GRAHAM: Yeah. I traveled a lot with my family. I thought that's part of an education. I took my children to New England, to the West Coast, Florida, and -- KLEE: You didn't have a desire to stay in any of those places, though? GRAHAM: I've been all over. When I got to be a foreman, I got three weeks vacation. We used every one of them to travel. (Laughter - KLEE). My daughter went to school down at Eastern, and she said she had the sweetest little old girl for a roommate, but said she'd never been out of the county, hardly. And she said, "I just supposed everybody had traveled like we had." KLEE: Yeah. She didn't know how lucky she was, did she? GRAHAM: That's right. KLEE: Well, I appreciate you talking to me. GRAHAM: Delighted. Oral history with Paul Graham. Graham discusses his work with coal mining; the history of Lynch, Benham, and Cumberland, Kentucky; and the economic impact of International Harvester and US Steel in the region. He also explains how Southeast Community College received the land for its Cumberland campus from International Harvester. insert here