Appalachia Celebrating Appalachia Videos

The Dollmaker

tipper discusses the doll maker

Harriet Simpson Arnow is most famous for her book “The Dollmaker” which was set in Appalachia during WWII. She wrote other books about Appalachia which are all good—actually I probably like them more than “The Dollmaker.”

“Mountain Path” is my favorite Arnow book.

In this video I share excerpts from “The Dollmaker” along with stories from Pap. I also discuss the sense of place most Appalachians experience.

I hope you enjoyed the video! Have you read any of Arnow’s books?

Help me celebrate Appalachia by subscribing to my YouTube channel!


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    October 8, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    I’m a day late watching this, but so glad I did! These are wonderful, poignant stories and you have woven them in so eloquently! I must start reading Arnow.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen bennett
    October 7, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    How very beautiful. I loved ths video. I’ll get one of her books. Thank you for sharing about the stories you’ve heard and your special place.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 7, 2020 at 10:00 pm

    We always had a steady stream of car up on Wiggins Creek. Yes, car! The mailman came every weekday except when it snowed real heavy or the road got washed out. Of course that was after I was a pretty good sized youngin. When I was just little we walked almost half a mile to the mailbox and to catch the school bus. We used to get off the bus of the evening and fight to see who got to look in the mailbox. Rarely was there anything there. Fliers and such junk mail hadn’t been invented yet, I guess.
    My parents ordered our school clothes for the Sears Roebuck Catalogue. About a week after the order went off we would start a daily (weekdaily, if that is a word) pilgrimage to “meet the mailboy”**. Of course it usually more than a month before it came but we still kept our vigil. I rarely got new stuff because I was the second son and my older brother’s outgrown clothes would usually fit me. He got mostly new clothes and I still begrudge him that. I finally caught up to and passed him but by that time he was out of school and I was buying my own.

    ** I have a theory why we called the mailman/mailperson, the mailboy when many used mailman or postman. It harkens back to when the mail was delivered on horseback. A 12 year old boy was better suited to carry the mail and a skinny one at that. He could carry more mail with less strain on the horse. Remember studying about the Pony Express? Well Needmore’s, and Wiggins Creek’s in particular, system of roads were conducive to bipedal or quadrupedal foot traffic and the traditional boy on a horse persisted until mid-20th century in more remote places.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 7, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    Your story of the high ridge makes me a bit envious. I have written this several times on BP&A I think but I have always missed having a place to walk in the woods from this house. And the other day I realised a big reason for why that is. My favorite way to pray is to walk and talk as if the Lord is beside me. But the walk needs to be in the woods. Can’t do that here and the yard is no substitute. Having to drive somewhere is just not spontaneous enough.

    Pap’s story of the ‘G-men’ at the store gives me such mixed emotions. Foremost is a grief that honesty is not so readily expected of people and accepted now as it was then. Maybe part of what Pap meant was that the toll of the Depression and the War had welded people together much more then than was true when you were talking to him. And that is also because then there was a social climate that expected most people were good-hearted. I dare say we were a much more moral society, though there were badly rotten spots.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      October 7, 2020 at 10:12 pm

      I totally agree with the need to be alone when I pray. Such prayers don’t even have to be words. God reads minds! God knows what we need. All we have to do is to humble ourselves to his will and He will supply our needs.
      Public prayers demand that the words make sense to the listeners. But the One listener that counts, at all, already knows!

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    October 7, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Tipper, I enjoyed listening to you today. I’ve read three of Harriet Arnow’s books and they all have touched me deep inside. When you said that those who were born in Appalachia and had to move away still felt a longing and a need to be there again resonates deeply with me. My first five years were spent in the mountains of Blairsville Ga when Daddy came back after World War II and I have memories of hearing a distant car or plane and everyone listening real close and holding their breath to determine if it was someone driving up that old dirt road to Grandpa’s house. Unlike you, I felt an extreme sadness and understanding of Gertie. I believe she was doing the best she could do. I did want to shake her Mother though and the strong hold she kept on Gertie. Harriett Arnow’s books tell the stories so eloquently that surely she must have lived there. Thank you for taking the time to share your feelings and thoughts with us today. I love the Blind Pig and the Acorn and keeping up with your family and hearing your talented family singing and playing instruments. I feel a kinship to you all. Keep on keeping on! The world needs to know about the good ole days that were not so good all the time, but good days anyway and shows the strength and perseverance that it takes to make it one day at a time. I hope you all have many wonderful happy days. Thank you for doing what you do.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2020 at 10:46 am

    I’m finally catching up on your posts to your blog. I had heart surgery last of August. They replaced a leaking left mitral valve. They now go in thru your side and your only in hospital from 3 to 5 days. I’m doing really good and enjoying your blog. I must say your reading of parts of the “Dollmaker” shows me that Harriet Arrow was a really good author.

    Your descriptions of WWII brought back many memories. My Daddy had two younger brothers serving in WWII. His youngest brother was shot down over Manila and was reported missing in action. His parents were in NE MS and it was the same there as in your story. If you heard a car coming over the hills and dusty roads, it was bad news. It was eight years later that the government sent word to my Grandparents that bones of their youngest son had been found where his plane went down and they would be shipping them back for proper burial. I remember my Daddy telling me that it was a Sunday and he was waiting after church where he had turned on the radio and they announced the War was over.

    I do think if you had loving parents and family, pretty much any place would be precious to you especially when your older looking back. My parents had to go north for jobs but my Daddy always longed to go back where he was raised in the hills of NE MS. and they did after he retired. I was raised in NE IL, and love, love, love the little town I grew up in.

    Thanks for all the stories as I sure have enjoyed them.

  • Reply
    October 7, 2020 at 10:26 am

    This post covers so very much. So much seems familiar, but especially when you spoke of the rarity of seeing a car. I would spend the greater part of each Summer on Pinnacle Creek with my grandparents. It was such a rarity to see a vehicle in that remote area, and all children would run as hard as they could up the long path to the road. I had aunts and uncles near my age and a passel of cousins nearby. Since I had two older uncles serving, it was the Korean War that seemed to be the main topic for the grownups. For the children the war seemed very remote from their life here in the mountains. We built hideouts, even had a sandy covered road to play in since there was a rarity of vehicles. My uncle said there were certain loggers who came by who threw them candy. I never got in on that big event, but I bet that was as exciting for them as the Mardi Gras. With few toys unless homemade, we had all the adventure one could handle right there on that old farm. Fodder shocks to hide in, horses to pet, a family dog at our heels, and a beautiful meandering creek to play in. We would help an older neighbor we called Uncle Welch tie oats. Back then it was the norm to address many non related elderly folks uncle and aunt.
    I recall a rather dirty and disheveled hobo once coming by to get a meal. He was promptly fed leftovers from an Appalachian meal. I wondered in later years why he was that far out of town, and I can only suppose he knew he would be given a good meal. Maybe on his way to nowhere in particular. Boiling water was poured over the dishes later. That old hobo was treated with respect and kindness, and nobody said anything ugly about him as he journeyed on down the road. Honestly, it just would not have occurred to them. Lessons like that are what I am still grateful for.

  • Reply
    Sallie, The Apple Doll Lady
    October 7, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Tipper, I enjoyed today’s post because The Dollmaker is also one of my favorite books. My copy is a small used paperback copy I probably found in a thrift store. I’ve read it more than once and each time I start it I want to skip over the first story but am captured by the author’s use of words to paint the picture of Gertie and the child on the side of the road desperate for help and I can’t stop reading. I especially enjoyed your post as you related personal stories to parts of the book. I was born after “the War” but at a time and place where hearing a vehicle approaching was similar in that the sounds it made on the gravel road helped to identify its driver before it came into sight. I still look up most times when I hear an airplane or helicopter, too. Each of my grandmothers had 5 sons serving in “The War” who were fortunate to return home. I can’t imagine their feelings knowing as one put it that they were “across the waters” and news in those days traveled slowly. It seems to me that today they might have been as far away as outer space but today we would have been able to communicate faster. Thanks again.

  • Leave a Reply