Residents of the Appalachian region recall their childhoods in the early twentieth century, before the prevalence of railroads and the coal industry. Farming was the main way of life, and people relied on gardens and hunting for much of their food. Narrators discuss canning and food preservation, making molasses, killing hogs, making soap and clothes, quilting, gathering ginseng and other herbs that were used for medicines, ghost stories, superstitions, and stories about slavery and the Civil War.
The industrialization of central Appalachia is revealed in discussions about coal mining, life in coal camps, logging and rafting, work in wood-alcohol factories, the expansion of roads and railroads, and the struggle of many to keep their land. The Great Depression increased hardships, and some survived by making moonshine. Others were helped by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Two world wars interrupted the lives of many Appalachian residents, as did feuds, floods, and other violent events and natural disasters.
Other topics include education and schools, religion and churches, politics, doctors, social life, games and recreation, funeral practices, handicrafts, welfare, Lees Junior College, the city of Jackson, and Breathitt County.