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Producer: Donna Ross
Living the Simple Life
Harlan and Anna Hubbard
Harlan Hubbard was born in 1900, a time when America’s cities were booming and most Americans were eagerly embracing the wonders of industry and technology. But from the beginning, Hubbard saw industrialism and consumerism as twin evils—dangers both to the earth and to humanity. In 1944, he put his theories of a better way to live to the test by essentially dropping out of the 20th century. With Anna, his wife of less than a year, he built a shantyboat and launched it onto the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky. The couple would spend the next eight years aboard the boat, traveling the lengths of the Ohio and Mississippi.
In 1952, they returned to Kentucky and carved out a homestead for themselves on the river, at Payne Hollow in Trimble County. Eschewing electricity, plumbing, and other modern trappings, they built a life that was simple but abundant. The Hubbards grew or made almost everything they needed, gardening and tending a flock of goats, and often welcomed friends in for homemade entertainment. Anna, a former librarian and schoolteacher, played the piano, and Harlan, a talented artist, produced numerous paintings, drawings, and prints of the landscapes that surrounded them.
Harlan Hubbard is better known, though, as a writer. His books Shantyboat and Shantyboat in the Bayous document their river journeys, while Payne Hollow and Journals, 1929-1944 lay out his philosophy of the well-lived life.
Kentucky Life’s remembrance of the Hubbards (Anna died in 1986, Harlan in 1988) includes interviews with long-time friends like Mia Cunningham, Anna’s biographer, as well as Paul Hassfurder, the current owner of the Payne Hollow homestead.
[This profile, with a new host introduction, is also Kentucky Life Program 814.]
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