7 Stories About Appalachia You Probably Won't See In Mainstream Media

Jul 17, 2020

For this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another listen to an episode we originally aired in January of this year, featuring stories about the ongoing struggle to rebuild from the 2016 West Virginia flood and the work yet to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

You’ll also hear how a video game is helping players from all over the world make a connection to the Mountain State, and a discussion about our diversity of dialects throughout Appalachian culture. 

And we learn about a truly unique community in West Virginia and its landmark restaurant: The Hütte. The town was originally founded by Swiss settlers in the mid-1800s. They felt the steep mountains, thick forests and winding river resembled their homeland. The Hütte is the center of the town, both literally and metaphorically.


In This Episode:

The Iron Lady of Helvetia 

Deep within the mountains of central West Virginia is a tiny village called Helvetia. Today the town of about 50 people is a melting pot of Appalachian and Swiss culture. The Swiss restaurant, the Hütte, has been open for more than 52 years and it’s being celebrated in a documentary called “Born In A Ballroom.”

The film focuses on the woman who not only helped start the restaurant, but also maintained, and even grew, the Swiss and Appalachian pride in Helvetia. Her name is Eleanor Mailloux. Folkways reporter Caitlin Tan spent some time in Helvetia talking with the producers of the film and brought us this story

The aftermath of flooding that occured in June 2016, in Clendenin, W.Va.
Credit Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Flood Prevention? 

Scientists predict that climate change will increase rainfall in Appalachia, which could also lead to more flash flooding. In 2016, parts of West Virginia experienced some of the worst flooding on record. Following the floods, officials and communities began taking steps to be more resilient to these extreme weather events. But reporter Brittany Patterson found that a state office created to improve resilience has stalled. And some observers say the state is still avoiding the important conversation needed about risks from climate change.

Video Game’s Cultural Connections With The Mountain State

It’s been more than a year since the video game Fallout 76 was released. The game is one in a popular series created by Maryland-based Bethesda Game Studios. It takes place entirely in a post-apocalyptic West Virginia. Players from around the world play together online to reclaim the land. 

New research finds the game may help forge new connections between those playing it and the Mountain State. The study will be published in the journal Technology, Mind, and Behavior.

Mountain Talk

Appalachian English is a term that linguists use to describe the speech patterns of people in Appalachia. It’s also referred to as “mountain talk.”

But there’s variation within the dialect, just as there is among the nearly 26 million people who populate the diverse region, which covers 13 states.

Cass Herrington from Blue Ridge Public Radio reports on some of the ways dialects impact the ways people across the country judge Appalachians, and how we judge each other.

wvpublicnews · 7 Stories About Appalachia You Probably Won't See In Mainstream Media

Art Changes

If you’re an artist, we’re interested in hearing how the pandemic has changed how you are creating. Maybe you’ve been inspired you to return to an older project? Or you’re creating something totally different. We’d love to hear about it. Write us a note or record your story using a voice memo app on your phone. Our email is insideappalachia@wvpublic.org. 

Artist And Writer Residency 

There is a hotel in Fayetteville, West Virginia, where writers and artists are invited to visit and stay for free. The idea is twofold: it gives artists a chance to hole away from distractions so they can produce new art, and to connect with other artists and writers in our region. This past winter, Eric Douglas spoke to the owners of Lafayette Flats, Shawn Means and Amy McLaughlin, about the New River Gorge Creative Residency. 

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, Blue Ridge Public Radio, and the Ohio Valley ReSource.

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Little Sparrow, John Wyatt, and Jake Schepps.

Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. 

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

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