It's Christmas in Appalachia, Stories of Goodwill Towards all People


Welcome to a special holiday episode of Inside Appalachia, featuring music by The Sweetback Sisters, with their album Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular, 2012, and Bob Thompson’s More Joy to the World, 2007.

Hip Hop from the Hill Top / Calls from Home

Not all families are home for the holidays. There are soldiers and sailors who are deployed all over the world during the season. And then there are families with loved ones in prison. Family members can’t always visit – while inmates can’t always get time on a phone line on Christmas eve or Christmas day. This can be especially true for families of inmates in high security prisons. And many of these prisons in rural Appalachia, like the Red Onion State Prison in southwestern VA, aren’t accessible by public transportation.


Courtesy Photo
Sylvia Ryerson (aka “Sly Rye”) is one of a team of people who help produce the live show, Calls From Home, every Monday night.

But families of inmates in seven prisons in central Appalachia are able to connect to their loved ones through a radio show, called Hip Hop from the Hilltops, Calls from Home. WMMT broadcasts the show from the Appalshop studio in Whitesburg, KY on Monday nights from 7-10. The producer takes music requests for the first couple of hours, and from 9-10, families leave recorded messages for their loved ones in prison. Calls From Home is broadcasted live from the WMMT station in Whitesburg KY every Monday night 9-10:00 pm.

Traveling to Christmas Tree Farms in North Carolina and West Virginia

Consumers will buy about 30-million Christmas trees this holiday season. Many of them will have been grown in North Carolina. The state is second in Christmas Tree production, behind Oregon. It’s a 100-million-dollar-a-year industry in the Tar Heels state. WUNC’s Environment reporter Dave DeWitt visited a farm to follow a Christmas tree from the mountains to his own living room.

Finding that perfect tree is a part of many family traditions. For our host Jessica Lilly, ” my family always stopped at the same country store close to my grandmother’s house every year. Dad was loyal to the owner until it closed.” Jessica Lilly stopped by a tree farm in Mercer County West Virginia.

All Aboard the Polar Express Train

In the last six weeks, 15,000 people have ridden the Polar Express train in Randolph County. 35 other Polar Express trains exist across the country. But the one in Elkins is the only Polar Express in the mid-atlantic region- so it’s extremely popular. The Polar Express also supports dozens of local jobs- at least seasonally. Our producer, Roxy Todd boarded the themed train recently- riding all the way to W.Va.’s North Pole.

Mistletoe, KY

If you wanted to surprise your love with a kiss, where would you go? Mistletoe KY of course!

Although the post office in Mistletoe has been shut down for a few years now, we found the former postmaster’s assistant, Judy Couch, to tell us the story behind Mistletoe. Between letters to Santa, Christmas cards, and packages to friends and family the United States Post Office is extremely busy this time of year. So what happens if you work at the post office in Mistletoe, Kentucky? Roxy Todd called Judy Couch, the former postmaster’s assistant, to tell us more.

“Calvin W. Price in Snow,” in PRESERVING POCAHONTAS Pocahontas County W. Va. Historic Preservation Archive, Item #206.

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Panther Sightings Before Christmas

In Christmas of 1955, at least six people reported seeing a beige mountain lion near Marlinton, West Virginia, according to an article by Calvin Price, who was then the editor for The Pocahontas Times. Browsing through newspaper articles that Price wrote, our producer Roxy Todd worked up a story as part of The Traveling 219 Project about the mountain lion sightings from 1055.

Just this past week, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife found 125 pound young and healthy mountain lion in Bourbon County. Officials are still trying to determine if the large cat was someone’s pet or wild… if it’s a wild animal it will be the first one confirmed in Kentucky since the Civil War.

Marlinton, W.Va. Continues to Recover from Fire, One Year Later

Traditions are a big part of Appalachian culture. For one town that meant that not even a fire could keep them from a Christmas celebration. A fire devastated one block of Main Street Marlinton, West Virginia in November of last year. Kelly Taber with Allegheny Mountain Radio reports that the town is re-building, recovering and trying to remain optimistic that business investment will transform the empty block into more than vacant lots.

Music in this episode of Inside Appalachia is from The Sweetback Sisters, with their album Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular, 2012, and Bob Thompson’s More Joy to the World, 2007.

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