Interview: Iona Back
Medium: Video Tape
Place: Home of Iona Back
Collected by: Danielle Fields
Date: Sunday, May 3, 2009
Fields: All right, what’s your name?
Back: My name is Iona Back
Fields: Okay, and do I have permission to record this with you?
Back: Yes, You do.
Fields: Ok. All right Iona, where did you grow up?
Back: I grew up in Eastern Kentucky, in Hazard, Kentucky.
Fields: How many siblings did you have?
Back: I had five.
Fields: What was it like growing up there?
Back: It was a great life. It was very… we were very happy, and very fortunate to be able to live and grow up and have the things that a lot of other people didn’t have down there. I wish I was back in those days.
Fields: Okay, what was, when you were growing up, what’s your most memorable times; what do you remember most from your childhood?
Back: Going to vacation bible school.
Fields: What was so special about it?
Back: I just loved my Sunday School teachers, and uh, I enjoyed the boys and girls I met at camp the previous year, and I was ready to go back and be with them and learn a lot about the Lord, and things we should do and shouldn’t do. I enjoyed that part of my life very much.
Fields: What would, say, an average day’s chores do for you?
Back: Oh, we had to do a lot of chores. We had to make our beds when we got up every morning, and then we’d get ready for school, and we’d have breakfast, and then we had to do the dishes before we could go to school; we had to come home for lunch ‘cause we didn’t have money to buy lunch; and then we had to do our dishes ‘fore we went back to school. We did the laundry, we did the ironing, we did all kinds of chores like that- us girls did. The boys didn’t do much! But yes, we had, we had a lot of work we had to do. We had to plant a garden, we had to help take care of that garden. But it’s just uh… it was okay, I don’t regret any of it, I’m very happy that mommy and daddy raised us like that.
Fields: Okay, do you remember anything about the Vietnam war?
Back: Yes, I remember the Vietnam war, I remember a lot of the tragedies. I had some cousins in it, but they all came home, some of them had problems, but…
Fields: Do you remember what the general opinion was about the war during that time?
Back: Not really.
Fields: Ok. What about the Korean war, do you remember the Korean War?
Back: I remember some of the Korean war because I had a real good friend that died in the Korean War. And I think his death is why I remember what I do of him, of the Korean War.
Fields: Do you remember what people were saying about the Korean War?
Back: The only thing I can remember was things they said about it was they didn’t know who was fighting each other because of the North and the South. And that’s about all I remember.
Fields: Okay, what about the Kennedy assassination?
Back: Yes, I remember the Kennedy assassination. I was at work. I thought he was the greatest president we ever had. That I can remember, you know? It was a very sad time for me. It was hard on a lot of people, because of the tragedy that took his life. But, it was a sad time. When Kennedy was assassinated. It was uncalled for, I think. I remember watchin’ everything on tv, you know. I watched everything. Some people was happy he was gone, Most of the people were sad, when he was killed.
Fields: Ok, back to your childhood; when you were a child do you have any memories that just strike you the most, like, something that happened that you’ll just always remember. Something funny, funny incident, or…
Back: I enjoyed growin’ up, and I had a lot of friends on the basketball team, and we went on picnics together, and, even after Billy and I married he’d go down to the Coverman River and go fishing. And a bunch of us girls would take that basketball team and we’d all go on a picnic and go to Pine Mountain, and we’d just have a good time. And those were the nice, happy days, and we enjoyed it. But the basketball team won the state championship that year, and, we was always close to the basketall team, and the cheeleaders because we lived there, right next to the school, you know, and… it was a lot of fun. Even after me and Billy married we kept a lot of contact with the basketball team and we’d go to Lexington or the arena or the old coliseum and stay all the time from Wednesday to Saturday with the basketball team and watch them play. It was just a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun down in the mountains! I enjoyed the life I had in the mountains. I wouldn’t trade it for nothin’. It was a great life and I enjoyed it. My children both were born down there. But I can remember when I was seven years old, and World War II. My daddy had to go. I remember daddy listening to the news every evening and we had to be real quiet. And I remember askin’ mommy why, and what it was. That was my first knowing what war was. And I remember cryin’ cuz mommy said daddy might have to go. And he did, but he never had to go overseas to fight or anything like that. But that was a sad time in my life. When I was a little girl and didn’t understand the full meaning of life. But, that was very sad. I think about that a lot, of how I felt because I thought daddy was gonna have to go into the service. I cried a lot at night, I remember cryin’ a lot.
Fields: Did you have any friends that had dads and came back, or, didn’t come back?
Back: No, I don’t remember that. I don’t remember any friend that their father went that didn’t come back. I had an uncle that was in that, in the service. But he was stationed in the states most of the time, mommy’s brother.
Fields: Do you remember anything about the rationing tickets?
Back: Yes! I remember when we had to have the – I remember callin’ em stamps- to buy sugar and milk and flour, and we had to have stamps to buy shoes. We got to buy new shoes once a year. But yeah, I remember those days. But mommy raised a garden, so really she didn’t have to go to the store and buy much. But [for] cornmeal, we had a friend that when mommy raised corn, they’d grind it for us. She’d have to buy coffee and sugar, and flour. But we always had a hog, and mommy would butcher those hogs. Mommy would render the fat and make lard. Then she would take the parts that couldn’t be used and she made lye soap so when she heated water to do laundry, she’d shave up that lye soap and it’d make it soapy to clean the clothes with. But I didn’t know there was better times. We didn’t know there were better times. We just- that was just every day life. And when we moved up here and walked down the hallway and turned on on the knob and get heat, turn it on and get water, you know, I thought it was great. But how I lived in Kentucky was not bad or abusive. But it made me appreciate what I had when I come to Indiana. With water, ‘cause we had to carry a pale of water; we had an outside toilet- and we didn’t have toilet paper, we had catalogues! But it made me appreciate what I had when we come to Indiana. It really makes me thankful that he [Billy] could work and we can live now financially without worrying about things, you know? But it was a good life down home, and daddy worked in the coal mines, and every fall, he’d buy so many tons of coal and they’d deliver it, and we had to carry it in at night to keep the fireplace or stove warm, whatever mommy heated the house with. But we just thought that was everyday life. We didn’t know there was any better life, it was no big deal that we lived like that. ‘Cause we always had plenty to eat and had a warm house, it was just different from what most kids- my kids if’n my kids had to raise a garden to make a livin’ nowadays they’d all starve to death! ‘Cause they wouldn’t know how. And I’m getting’ too old to raise a garden… But it was fun, it was a good life in Kentucky. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was a good life. It made me ‘preciate what we have today.
Fields: When did you move to Marion?
Back: He [Billy] went to work at GM on October the fourth, in ’56. And me and the kids came up two weeks later in October 12th and 13th, in ’56. So we’ve been here 53 years- 56 years.
Fields: How has Marion changed from then to now?
Back: Marion was a very nice place. Out north where the bypass is now and the mall, from Second St., St. Road 18 out that ways, that was all bottomland. The only thing I can remember that was out north on the bypass was Custer’s Last Stand. It was out there. And then people went to building up, General Motors brought a lot of work to this town. There were a lot of towns built, and it really got to be a wonderful place, nice streets. It got to be I would go to Kentucky and never even lock my doors. But, you know, it was really a different town than what it is now. There’s a lot to be done for Marion now. I’d like to see some streets done- I’d like to see Lenfesty done! But no it was a much… Jack Edwards I think he… I can’t remember if we had a mayor before him- I can’t remember. He was really a good mayor. We had a lot of prosperous things happen to Marion- and nice things. It was really a nice place to live. I can’t believe it’s went down from the way it was built up. We moved here and it was already built up. And then something happened and it all went down. It’s no comparison to what it was back in, I’ll say from about ’65 on up till about the last few years. And it’s really sad. It’s bad.
Fields: Allright, do you have anything else that you would like to add?
Back: No, I’m happy here in Marion, I like it. I went to Arizona and stayed for a month, but it wasn’t home. I had a son and his wife and grandsons out there, but it was nice and they was good, I’d just like to come back to Marion. You know it’s bad, it’s went down, but it’s home to me. But I don’t forget that my roots started in the mountains of Kentucky. That’s where my heritage is, down there. But Marion is home. This is where I come home to. But I don’t have much in Kentucky now ‘cause his [Billy’s] parents are gone. I’ve not been home in four years. It’s been five years since I’ve been home. But that’s home too. But like I say, that’s where my heritage started. And you don’t forget that. You don’t forget them things. Them’s one things you won’t never forget, is your younger days, and when you’re growing up. I can forget what happened last week but, this is home, Marion is home. I have a lot of friends in Marion, and I have a lot of family in Marion. And I just like to stay with them. I enjoyed Arizona but it wasn’t home. It was a different part of the world. And Lord, it’s hot out there. There ain’t no humidity or nothin’. But it’s nice out there but I like it here the best. I miss Jurl. Billy and I have been married 59 years. We’ve really had a good life. We never really had to struggle, we have been blessed in this life. And that’s really the end of the story.
Fields: Well thank you Iona, I appreciate that.