Sunday, February 05, 2017

The War on Poverty in the Pages of LIFE; Appalachia Portraits, 1964

In his 1964 work titled “The Valley of Poverty”, Dominis brings attention to the fact that in the 1960s – a time when most of America had long recovered from the Great Depression, the people of the Appalachian region were still living through a great deal of poverty.

David Allan Coe – If That Ain't Country Lyrics

The old man was covered with tattoos and scars
He got some in prison and others in bars
The rest he got working' on old junk cars
in the daytime
They looked like tombstones in our yard
And I never seen him when he wasn't tired and mean
He sold used parts to make ends meet
Covered with grease from his head to his feet
Cussing' the sweat and the texas heat and skeeterz
And the neighbors said we lived like hicks
But they brung their cars for pa to fix anyhow

Now our place was a graveyard for automobiles
At the end of the porch there was four stacks of wheels
And tires for sale for a dollar or two cash
There was fifty holes in an old tin roof
Me and my family we was living' proof
The people who forgot about poor white trash
And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass
If that ain't country, it'll hair lip the pope
If that ain't country, it's a damn good joke
I've seen the grand ole opry,
And I've met johnny cash
If that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass


  1. This picture reminds me of David Allen Coe's song "If That Ain't Country"

    1. Thanks! I'm adding that to the post!

  2. I was born in 1965, and grew up in a rural Appalachian area, Rabun County Georgia to be exact.
    my father was a forest ranger/game warden there and we lived in a house provided by the state.
    which meant that unlike most of the locals we had running water, electricity , a gas furnace, and a phone.

    our house had the only phone for miles around and my father had lots of first aid training from when he was formerly in the military and had worked for a large urban police dept for a couple years.

    so our house was the place all the locals went when anyone was seriously injured, for immediate first aid and a ride to the hospital, (the actual hospital used in the Deliverence movie scenes)

    before unelmployment, welfare, food stamps etc, the main source of income was making moonshine. and all the locals built their stills on the state forest land so they wouldnt get caught with it at their own home.

    I remember seeing the stills when we would ride thru the woods in his jeep, or walked around deer hunting,although we never saw anyone at the stills, my father seemed to always know who each one belonged to, and as long as they packed out all their trash, and didnt leave a mess, he didnt seem to care, as this was the only way most of the locals could earn any kind of steady income.

    I remember going to lots of peoples houses that had no running water or electricity and even visiting some people who had dirt floors.
    as for automobiles, most locals had an old station wagon with the back half of the roof cut off to make a pickup truck, since an old station wagon was much much cheaper to buy than an old pickup truck.

    1. Dang, cool story! You remind me that everyone has some great stories, and that I wish everyone would write their biography. My granddad on my dads side was a game warden for a while, and my granddad on my moms side worked most of his last 30 years of working life with the Forestry Dept. He did a lot of road work to maintain the back country unpaved roads were we lived (upper peninsula of Michigan) and cleared fallen trees, beaver damns that flooded roads, and stuff like that. I was born in 1971, on the shore of Lake Superior, in a small town hospital 25 miles from where my parents lived. Nice place to visit, in winter, when the flies are frozen... but in the summer you're just a walking blood supply to 7 or 8 different bugs, plus ticks.

  3. In Southeast Ohio, I don't think the Appalachian foothills have changed much since the '60s. There is still a lot of poverty in that area. I think the war on poverty was about as successful as the war on drugs.