Would you like to have an audio or video recording of the ancestor you are now researching or just revisit your great grandmother telling you a family story? That might not be possible, as they may have passed away before any one did an interview by recording or just writing down their words as they spoke. But it’s not too late for you to start your own family’s oral history recording library. You can help ensure for later generations what was not possible for you to use in your research.
The only equipment you need to start is pen, paper and a recording device. You are the interviewer so you need only locate a willing interviewee to begin to preserve knowledge of your family’s history. I had spoken with my parents and aunts while taking notes and sent out one page follow up questionnaires which did not come up too my expectations. And my ability to take the kind of notes needed for research while interviewing people fell somewhat short of what I thought was a good secretary’s ability. So in 1988 I started interviewing close relatives using a small cassette tape recorder with little knowledge of how to go about the task at hand. Now I am somewhat wiser through experience and reading articles on oral history interviewing.
The first step is knowledge of how to operate your equipment and this means reading the booklet on usage and practicing with the machine. I would like to recommend that you let the tape run continually while you do the interview or get a voice activated recorder. The reasoning being there are silent spots in conversation and clicking the machine on and off becomes annoying and you may not record the first few words because you failed to turn it on as the interviewee began to speak. A voice-activated recorder might not get all of the first word but it will come on when some one speaks or if the machine runs constantly you have every voice in real time. Have batteries in staled in the recorded and bring the adaptor for use in a wall plug along with extra batteries. And let’s not forget two or three blank cassette tapes and a head cleaner. If you have a good microphone to attach to the recorder it will pick up the sound better than the internal microphone. Now place the microphone or recorder close to the interviewee in order to hear them more clearly. Remember you do not know the answers to your questions but you do have an inkling of what you will ask.
Now you will need to find a willing relative to interview. For your first session I would suggest a person that you have a close relationship with and some common experiences. Contact your prospective interviewee to explain that you are working on family oral history project and would very much like to invite them to be part of the project. Be sure to include the fact that you only need an hour of their time. Remember if they are gracious enough to talk with you it did not mean they agree to let you grill them all day. And besides people’s attention span only last so long and you do not want to wear out your welcome. If they agree to your invitation then set up a time and place to conduct the interview and thank them. In general it will be best to conduct the interview session with only one person present but many times this will not be the case. The spouse or other relations may be present during the session and can inject their own response to your questions. Many times they can be helpful but then they can also be a determent so you must remember that you are the guest and make the best of it.
Now prepare an interview sheet for that specific person with the following information: Date and place of the interview, full name and nick name, date and place of birth, current address, parents, siblings, grandparents and any other factual items you deem needed. One sheet of paper printed front and back with information is all you need anything more will be a distraction. Now you must define your research goal for this interview. It can have a general goal like "Aunt Eccentric Life" with two or three more specific questions such as her general appearance, Christmas visit and travel exploits. Now you can word questions like this "Did Aunt Eccentric dye her hair?" and receive "yes or no" for answers only. Are you can have more general question like "What did you think of Aunt Eccentric’s appearance?" and receive a much more interesting response about her hair, make up, clothing shoes and entrance into a room. You need to keep in mind that an interview will have a life of it own and the interviewee’s stream of consciousness might jump from the Aunt to their trip to Paris, France. Remember they may not want to talk about your subject any more so go with the flow and you can learn something new. You will improve with time at compiling a list of subjects and questions.
Before you leave home check the recorder "saying this is a test" and then re play it. Then enter "your name, interviewer and the name of the interviewee and the date" and write the same information on the outside label of the tape. When you arrive at your dictation thank them for the interview and reiterate why you are doing an oral history tape. Make sure they understand that the information on the tape will be used to write a family history and you are not engaged in a secret conversation. You need to listen for extraneous noises like the television, dishwasher and ask to turn them off. I have actually had to ask that all those things be turned off before starting an interview. After creating as quite an environment as possible you’re ready to start the recording session.
Began by asking them to say their name and date of birth on the recording this establishes their voice record for anyone who might listen to the tape later. Start with an easy question and after you have feel you have established a good rapport then you might brooch a stiffer subject with the respondent. Follow up on their answer to your questions before you move to a new subject. Give them your full attention with eye contact and the appropriate body language. Remember you might touch a nerve with the interviewee when they are talking about a love one that has passed away and you can turn the recorder off while they gain control. The interviewee may not speak politically correct, use polite language or they could be overly modest in any case it is their story not yours so just be a good listener. Always be kind to your respondent. End the interview as you started on a happy note with an easy question.
You need a form that grants permission for the use of your interview for publication. There are a number of books that have release form examples. All the people that speak on the tape need to sign the release form so when it is archived future listeners can make use of the information. Be sure to thank them for the privilege of taping an interview. And inform them that you will follow up with a written transcript so they can correct any transcription errors.
You should make any notes that will help with the transcription of the interview as soon as possible. Notes on the interviewee such as a description not only of them but of their environment can also be of value to a later listener.
Be sure to catalogue your tapes with the names and dates for all the speakers on the tape. Many people make a copy that is stored in a separate location in case of a natural disaster destroying the original. Save your families history by making some oral history recordings.
Interview With Charles Kenneth Weedman &
Elna Alice Lumpkin Weedman 1982
This interview is from an hour-long tape with a transcription of 72 pages that I have edited. I have taken excerpts from general interest stories of how these families lived. People are spoken of by first name, nick name or Mom and Dad and I have placed their full name and dates after their spoken name the first time they appear in the text.
Tape of Charles Kenneth Weedman (Dec. 6, 1912 – Aug. 27, 1990) and Elna Alice Lumpkin Weedman (Feb. 27, 1913 – June 12, 2001): Interviewed by Kenneth Russell Weedman in 1982 at their home in Little Rock, Arkansas. KRW = Kenneth R. Weedman; CKW = Charles K. Weedman and ELW = Elna Lumpkin Weedman.
KRW: Now, tell me what you did on Sunday afternoon when you were a boy (Charles Kenneth Weedman 1912-90).
CKW: My daddy (Norman Benedict Weedman 1876-1943) would hook up that little red horse to the hack and we'd go for a ride. What's a hack - some people call it a buggy. It has one seat up front, but two people could sit on it. Mom (Sarah Hilma Malmstrom Weedman 1881-1953) & Dad would sit up front, and she'd hold the baby and he'd drive the horse. Well, according to when it was. I was the baby sometimes, and Elizabeth (Elizabeth Weedman 1915-1987) was the baby Some times, and then Dorothy (Dorothy Weedman 1918-2005) was the baby sometimes. But Bill (William Russell Weedman 1925-1957) never was the baby in that hack.
KRW: What did you do, Mama (Elna Alice Lumpkin Weedman 1913-2001)? Did you go riding with on Sunday afternoon?
ELW: We had a Surrey with a Fringe on top. Lucy (Janie Lucille Lumpkin 1915-2003) and I rode in the back. Mama (Lou Craig Lumpkin 1892-47) held Claude (Claude Cleo Lumpkin, Jr. 1917-95) in her lap. I saw my first prairie chicken
CKW: Well, what did you do with Anne (Anne Craig Lumpkin 1919)?
ELW: She wasn't born daddy. I saw my first prairie chickens run across the road.
ELW: And Daddy (Claude Cleo Lumpkin 1891-70) and Mama pointed them out, and Daddy remarked at the time "I rarely see a prairie chicken" and he called our attention to it.
KRW: What year was that, do you remember?
ELW: I wasn't very old. I couldn't have been, but I remember it vividly because Daddy said... Daddy stopped the horse, and when they scurried across the road he said "look at the prairie chickens." They looked scrawny to me.
KRW: Well did you all have a seat in that surrey with the fringe on top.
ELW: No, just the one seat on the front. And like daddy said on theirs, Mama put a quilt (in the back bed).
CKW: Kind of like a pickup truck bed back there.
ELW: And Lucy and I sat on (the quilt). He was out to survey his farmland, and to see how the colored people were working on the farms. And that's why we took the ride in the buggy. We had a car, but you went in the Surrey because you could stop and go and look and wouldn't get stuck. We didn't have roads that a car would or could take you over.
CKW: It was just all dirt roads then. We didn't have much gravel roads then.
KRW: That was out there around the houses that had the breezeways right daddy?
Living quarters were on one side and the kitchen and all were on the other.
ELW: That's right.
KRW: Why would those houses have those breezeways?
CKW: Makes them cooler. They didn't have air conditioning then.
TAPE STOPS, THEN STARTS AGAIN.
KRW: You worked in the sawmill and what was your job?
CKW: I did everything that you could do in a sawmill. I set blocks, worked on the carriage, fired the boiler and I off burden, run the cut-off saw, and toted slabs and run the edger.
ELW: Cut a skunk in two one time.
CKW: Yeah. They'd brought a log in one time that had a hollow in it and Dad put it on the carriage and I set it out there. He said to set it out there a ways, so I did, and he run it through there. That skunk was in that hollow in that log. It just sawed that skunk in two. Man, you talk about stink.
KRW: What did your dad say?
CKW: That it smelled so bad he could nearly taste it.
ELW: They were so sick. They all had to go home.
KRW: You had to shut down that day?
CKW: Well after we ate lunch we did.
KRW: After you ate lunch ... aw, shoot.
ELW: He told me they vomited. It was horrible.
CKW: No, we didn't vomit. There were some of them felt like they wanted to vomit.
KRW: Who all was working there that day? Granddad and who else with you, Bernard (Norman Bernard Weedman 1911-55)?
CKW: No, he wasn't there (Bernard). There were eight or ten of us working there. I don't remember all the names, or who they all were. He gave us the jobs that you had to pay the highest salaries. One of us worked on the carriage; the other would fire the boiler. It paid two bits an hour for those jobs. And others, they just paid twenty cents. It was about...1930-31. During the Great Recession or Depression. Whatever you want to call it.
KRW: Well, you went to work on the riverboats after that didn't you?
CKW: I worked on a Snag boat C.B. Reese, and the Steamboat Arkansas.
ELW: What was the barge?
CKW: I worked on a barge on the Black River, except it wasn't self-propelled.
The Harve Goodman wasn't it?
ELW: Yeah, Harve Goodman.
KRW: Well, if it wasn't self-propelled, what did you do?
CKW: Well, you floated. Float down the river on it.
KRW: What was your job on the barge? Pulling crosscut saw and what else?
CKW: No, I was a clerk on the barge.
KRW: Well a clerk kind of had it easy then, didn't he?
CKW: He had to work all day and all night both.
KRW: I see. Well, did you ever pilot the boat?
CKW: I did the steamboats, yeah. That was my job, a cub pilot.
KRW: A Cub Pilot. Mark Twain said they gave those Cub Pilots hell.
CKW: Well you got hell all right sometimes. Whatever I did, I got whatever they gave on those steamboats. I worked for the boat's captain most of the time.
KRW: Who was the Captain of the C. B. Reese?
CKW: Captain Alec Rainey.
KRW: Who was the Captain of the Arkansas?
CKW: Captain Ray Allen.
ELW: You almost had your pilot's license and then quit. You knew every light on the Mississippi...
KRW: You worked mainly on the Mississippi, Arkansas, and the White River then?
CKW: Yeah. Not mainly. Altogether on them steamboats.
KRW: You didn't go up the Cache (river)?
CKW: Not on them steamboats. Worked down from Cairo, Illinois to down to Roselle, Mississippi. And on the White River we'd work from the mouth of it up to the mouth of Little Red, up at Georgetown.
KRW: Well, that's where we used to have a cabin (Georgetown, Arkansas).
Did the steamboat pull in there at Georgetown? There's nothing at Georgetown.
CKW: Well they had a store there, and the man that owned the store had a bobcat.
CKW: Yeah, and that bobcat was just a little bitty thing.
KRW: Did you work on the Arkansas any? Did your boat come up the Arkansas?
CKW: Just to Pine Bluff. That's the farthest I've ever been. Of course now you can go all the way up it to Catoosa, Oklahoma.
KRW: Well I think they'd come up it farther than Pine Bluff earlier though, hadn't they?
CKW: Yeah. They'd come to Little Rock, some of the low draft boats could.
KRW: Well did you ever pull anything interesting out of the river when you were snagging?
CKW: Yeah, cottonwood trees. We pulled up a piece or two off an old civil war boat down at St. Charles, Arkansas on the White River that was sunk there.
KRW: Was the gun gone?
CKW: Well, we never did get it, if it wasn't.
ELW: They're still trying to get it up Kenny.
CKW: And we pulled pieces of wood off of it.
KRW: Well, they were probably waterlogged.
CKW: They were waterlogged all right. Damn hellgrammites had just about eaten it all up.
KRW: What's a hellgrammite?
CKW: It's a water worm.
TAPE STOPS, THEN STARTS AGAIN.
KRW: Well, Mama, your dad owned a grocery store (in De Valls Bluff, Arkansas?
ELW: Well yes. But of course when he was little he worked for Sanders & Frolicks. That was the biggest mercantile store in town. Until he, you know got enough money to get on his own. So it was hard. I should have been a boy because I had to do all the hard work that boys would ordinarily do.
CKW: Well, boys don't normally take care of babies.
ELW: Well, I know. But I did; besides there were eight of us, a baby every two years. But you know I never resented when a new baby was coming. I never ever resented it because I was just thrilled to pieces when the new baby came. But I had to work hard when I was a little girl.
CKW: How many cows did you milk everyday?
ELW: I used to milk three cows every night. During the summer months, I milked the cows. I went with him. We'd go every morning and every night. Then we had to come home with all this milk. We had this big cream separator and separated the milk. We burned wood, and it took an enormous amount of wood. Daddy would have it hauled in. And we would have to throw it in the woodshed and stack all of this wood. As soon as school was out - You had to rush home to get all the wood stacked. When we washed, we had a pick pot out in the yard. You had to boil the clothes in the pot and sheets and things had to be boiled and rinsed and hung on the line, especially when Mama had a new baby. Occasionally, we'd have to hire us a colored woman to come and help out. But it was rough to have to pump your water and every night after Daddy saw that it was too much work for him to take care of all the cows out at the farm, he brought a cow in town, and I had to milk her morning and night. I detested that, especially on Sundays. Everybody would get ready to go to Sunday school and church, which we did every Sunday, and I would feel all dirty, and especially then at night when I wanted to go to Training Union. Well I'd have had to milk the cow, and be dirty; at least I felt like I was dirty and before I Could go to church at night. Not another girl in town ever did anything like that but me.
CKW: Well, what did Lucille do all that time?
CKW: And what did Claude do?
ELW: Well, he was too young.
KRW: Well, when did you all move to Little Rock?
ELW: 1931 August 18.
KRW: And started a produce house up here. Well, you worked down there some too, then didn't you?
ELW: Oh, yes, for years. I never did much of the chicken picking, but we'd have such huge orders out at Camp Robinson that they'd buy barrels of chickens. I'd help to gut the chickens and cut them up and put them in the barrels of ice.
KRW: Did you haul them out by truck or by wagon out to Camp Robinson?
ELW: By truck, in barrels.
CKW: In 1931, they'd done away with wagons by then.
KRW: And they had a pretty big army post out there then, in 1931, at Camp Robinson?
CKW: During the National Guard encampments out there.
KRW: I see. Did granddad still have some farms around De Valls Bluff and all?
ELW: No, he... No, not at that time. He lost everything during the Depression.
KRW: Lost everything during the Depression?
ELW: He just got into the wrong business.
CKW: Lost everything but the eight kids. He saved them.
KRW: Saved them, brought them to Little Rock, and then started another business.
ELW: Yeah. He just got into the wrong business. I look back at it now and thought if daddy had only gone into real estate, he would have been a millionaire. I know that. That's a fact, he could sell you anything. He was a super salesman Kenny.
CKW: He could sell an ice-cream-on-a-stick up at the North Pole.
ELW: He did buy up a lot of property, but he had his fingers in too many pies. You know, trying to run this business, and he'd own a beauty shop here and someone else would run it for him. There was no way that he could take care of all the things he was trying to do. But had he got into the realty business, he would have had his own company, and I know now that he wouldn't have had to work so hard. All of us kids have all said that. You know, had Daddy just gotten into real estate, he would have had it made.
CKW: He'd got a broker's license.
ELW: That's true.
TAPE STOPS, THEN STARTS AGAIN.
KRW: Where were some of the places that you had mills?
CKW: He had mills set up north of Biscoe at two locations that I know of.
KRW: What were they called?
CKW: Weedman's Mill.
KRW: Well, didn't he have one out on Culotches Bay (Is on the cache river) somewhere?
CKW: That was before my time though. That was during Grandpa's time.
KRW: E. S. Weedman (Elisha Spurrier Weedman 1849-1910) had one on it.
CKW: Yeah, Dad run that mill on Culotches Bay, but it belonged to his daddy.
KRW: I see. Well, he had mills everywhere too, didn't he, till he died?
CKW: Well just at Clarendon and Brasfield.
KRW: Clarendon and Brasfield and Culotches Bay (Elisha Spurrer Weedman).
KRW: When he came to Arkansas, he went to Clarendon didn't he?
CKW: First and then to Brasfield.
KRW: What kind of a fellow was he?
CKW: He (Norman Benedict Weedman 1876-1943) was slick. That's what they called him.
KRW: Slick Weedman. Why did they call him slick?
CKW: Well, he said one day he was out there playing baseball and he swung at the baseball, and the bat slipped out of his hand. He said, "Gosh, that handle is slick" and they called him slick after that.
KRW: But you didn't know if that was true, huh?
CKW: Well I guess it was. Because he wasn't prone to lying much.
KRW: Did you have any dogs?
CKW: Yeah, we nearly always had a dog. We had a collie.
KRW: What's this you used to tell me about your dad walking up the street and the dogs would be barking at him?
CKW: They'd be barking at him and nipping at his feet. He'd just look around, nonchalant-like, and say "Be gone dogs." I'd be hustling out of the way.
KRW: Things didn't bother him too much.
KRW: Well, I never remember him anyway but just snow-white-headed.
CKW: He was so white-headed, that's the only way I remember him too.
KRW: He was a pretty good businessman though, wasn't he?
CKW: Yeah, I guess so. He made a pretty good living.
KRW: Well most folks in De Valls Bluff liked him, didn't they?
CKW: Yeah, and Biscoe too. And Brassfield, and Dagmire, and Mesa.
KRW: Did he work in Dagmire and Mesa some?
CKW: Had a mill out at Mesa. Yeah, that's the last place he had a mill, in Mesa.
KRW: It was? Yeah, I can remember going up to see him and Grandmother over at that house in De Valls Bluff.
STOPS, AND THEN STARTS AGAIN.
KRW: Well you went up North with Curly Holmes and Boz Nicholson (High School friends of my dads)?
CKW: Yeah, we got laid off on a steamboat in 1937 in Memphis, and we went up to Detroit. Got a job in the automobile factories. I fixed headlights for about a year. There was a company in Cincinnati that shipped the headlights in to be put on cars. There were four of them headlights in a box, in a cardboard box, and in handling they'd get bent, and I'd repair them.
KRW: I see. What kinds of cars were they for?
KRW: Chryslers. So you worked for the Chrysler plant?
CKW: Well, I worked for the Chrysler Corporation. I worked in a Chrysler plant, a Dodge plant, and a Desoto plant. But the Desoto plant was the one that I worked at regular. I'd just go out to them others when they got behind, and I'd help them catch up.
KRW: Well, did you finally get laid off up there or did you just quit and come home?
CKW: I just quit and came back home. It got to snowing up there in October, and I came home.
KRW: I see. Didn't like that snow?
CKW: Not in October.
KRW: Well, you went over to Niagara Falls once, didn't you?
CKW: Yeah. I didn't go over it. We just drove over there to see it, but I didn't go over the Falls.
KRW: Well, that's a pretty good drive from Detroit.
CKW: Oh, it's not too far. We just drove a circle right around Lake Erie.
KRW: Well what did you do when you came back home? Try to get back on the steamboat?
CKW: I'd already got back on it. He'd already written to me and told me to come back to work on it.
KRW: I see. What boat was that?
CKW: C. B. Reese.
KRW: C. B. Reese. You worked on the Arkansas first then?
CKW: No. I worked on the C. B. Reese. I didn't work on the Arkansas but one time for a short period.
KRW: Well what year did you work on the barge?
KRW: Well, where is the Black River?
CKW: It's in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and it goes down through Pocahontas, Arkansas and Biggers and down through Black Rock, Arkansas. They rafted in some timber on it sometimes. And there were small boats that ran up and down it with outboard motors. (Worked on it about a year, year and a half. We floated it down to Black Rock, and they tied it up down there, laid it up for the winter. Left me there as a caretaker for it for the winter.
KRW: Is that where you and Mama stayed on that barge at Black Rock?
KRW: Was I born then? Is that in 1938 or 1939?
CKW: 1938 and 1939. No, you hadn’t been born when we were living on that boat. Because we left that boat. They sent me up to Newport, an office that they had up there where they were building levees. As a clerk. And you were born while we were living there at Newport. But Mama came back to Little Rock and went to a hospital down here when you were born. But we were living there in Newport when you were born. And then after you were born, she came on back up to Newport.
TAPE STOPS, THEN STARTS AGAIN.
CKW: I was in the National Guard with quite a few of them (people who lived in Slovak, Arkansas). I was in a unit there at Hazen. It was an ambulance company.
KRW: An ambulance company. How come you got in the National Guard?
CKW: They paid you.
CKW: Uh-huh. How come you got in it?
KRW: Well they paid you. How much did they pay back then?
CKW: Well it was according to what your rank was. I was a corporal. I made a little more than a first class private.
KRW: Yeah. Well did you like the National Guard?
CKW: Oh yeah. It was okay.
KRW: What kind of a commander did you have?
CKW: Oh we had a sharp one, his name was Jerry Screetman. Captain Jerry Screetman. Oh, he was a ball of fire.
KRW: He was. Did he wear those Riding boots?
CKW: Yeah, and he kept them so shiny you could see yourself in them. He'd drill you every night that they had a meeting. He'd drill you all over Hazen.
KRW: Well, what kind of ambulances did you have?
CKW: Just regular Army ambulances with a big cross on them.
KRW: Well did you all go out and drive those some, for practice?
CKW: Yeah. He gives us one to bring down at De Valls Bluff that belonged to the unit to come up there and drill with. And the Slovaks had one of them too, that they did that.
KRW: Well where did you go to camp?
CKW: Camp Robinson. Well my unit was activated when all the Guards were activated at the start of World War II, but I wasn't in it then.
End of Side # 1
PART TWO of TAPE
Side # 2
TAPE STOPS, THEN STARTS AGAIN.
KRW: You say your dad had a derby hat he wore when he got dressed up.
CKW: Not necessarily when he got dressed up. He'd just wear that derby hat once in a while.
KRW: What kind of watch did he have?
CKW: He had a great big old silver watch, about that big. The thing weighed a pound and a half. Oh lord yes, it was bigger than a silver dollar. He said he found it on a dead man floating down Cash River.
ELW: Aw Daddy!
CKW: That's what he told me.
ELW: Lord have mercy, no!
KRW: Granddad Weedman told as many stories as you did, then didn't he?
CKW: Said he got that watch off a dead man floating down Cash River. He said he tried to find out who that dead man was so he'd know who to give that watch to. He never could find out, so a judge told him, "Well just keep it Mr. Weedman." So he kept it. He had another watch just like it, so he had two now. He had another watch just like it that his daddy gave him. So he had two of them now. You could hardly find a pair of pants with a watch pocket big enough to put it in.
KRW: Is that right? Of course you were awful small so it looked awful big anyway didn't it?
CKW: No. I was used to big watches. He said he tied that dead man up to a bush with that watch chain for a while. Thought maybe somebody would come along looking for him. But nobody came along looking for him, so he just went ahead and took the watch and put it in his pocket.
ELW: It still ran all right then?
CKW: Oh yeah. Well, he opened it up and sort of blew the water out of it.
KRW: Yeah, I bet he did! (Laughing) How did you get the back off the watch?
CKW: Put it between your hands and turn your hands this a way and you screw the front and back off of it. You didn't take a little old screwdriver and pry it off. It just screwed off.
KRW: What was Grandmother's favorite medicine to give you when you got sick?
KRW: What was that?
CKW: It was something that could damn near kill you. I don't know how much she'd give you, just give you some of it, and you'd be so sick you wouldn't care how much of it you were taking or how little.
ELW: Usually, they were tablets, and you'd mash the tablets into a powder.
CKW: And take that Calamul and after you'd had it for about a day and a half, why she'd give you a big dose of Cretonne oil.
ELW: Clean you out.
CKW: Well what is that stuff you soak your foot in? The stuff you put water in, crystals, and mix it up and soak your foot in?
ELW: Epson salts.
CKW: Give you a big dose of Epson salts.
KRW: I don't think you took that internally did you?
ELW: Well if you weren't sick, you would be. (Laughing)
CKW: She wouldn't give you but about a quart of it. Just a light laxative. And then you'd take quinine for about a month or two. That would stop them mosquito chills.
KRW: You didn't ever get the mosquito chills?
CKW: Yeah, sure did. That's what I was taking that other stuff for. You took that ahead of the quinine to clean you out so the quinine could work good.
ELW: They had those huge vats at De Valls Bluff, and we would... Daddy would go get us fish, we decided we wanted fish, and I always loved to go with him and walk down there and look in those vats, and Kenny the catfish would weigh... Daddy, how much do you suppose some of those things weighed?
CKW: Oh, a lot of them weighed fifty pounds to a hundred.
ELW: Fifty to a hundred pounds. Oh, just enormous catfish in those vats!
CKW: Them catfish, those big ones like that, had whiskers longer than yours!
ELW: Oh, I would just tremble but I always wanted to go because I liked to look at those huge fish.
CKW: You take a steak off a seventy-five pound catfish; it was a pretty good size steak, they'd trot line those. They'd net buffalo, but they'd trot line catfish.
KRW: Well, they had a big button factory there too, didn't they?
ELW: Oh yeah. That was one of the first jobs daddy had.
CKW: He was a little button cutter.
ELW: That's why I was so interested in preserving those things. Those shells where they had cut the buttons out. And then you know, after plastic came in, it was too expensive. People didn't want to spend that much money for buttons.
CKW: Back in those days, they had pearl buttons on everything.
ELW: Pearl buttons on everything...
KRW: How did they get those mussels out of the river?
CKW: They dragged for them with crow's feet on a long rod pipe. And he'd have a rack on each side of his boat sticking up and he'd have those long pipes with crow's feet off of a string hanging down off of that pipe. And he'd start his motor on his boat and he'd run up the river away and then drop his mule down, and throw them pipes over in the river, and they'd drag down and them mussel shells would close up on them crow's feet. He'd pull that pipe up and hook it on that rack there, and he'd go to taking them things off of it and throwing them down into the bottom of his boat. Stink down there when they was opening up them mussel shells.
ELW: Oh, that's awful. But you know he had those huge vats, and they'd put them in there and then open the things up and then...
CKW: They'd open them up and they'd keep the shells and sell them to the button factory and feed the hogs the mussels that came out of them. The pearls, they’d keep them that they found. They'd make stick pins out of them and rings and that sort of stuff out of those. They sold that stuff, sold it by the ounce. By weight, those slugs and pearls. Well pearls didn't. They sold pearls based on how big it was, how perfect it was. Those slugs, that stuff sold by weight.
ELW: Kenny, see our street. They put those shells down and crushed
them to keep people from getting stuck in the mud.
KRW: Yeah, like down in New Orleans and down through there.
ELW: Down our street, Brinkley Street, they crushed them and put them in all the ruts all the way to the cemetery from downtown, so cars wouldn't get stuck.
CKW: And that a way they could sell more tires, too, 'cause those things would cut the devil out of tires. They'd get in there and get to spinning and just cut their tires to pieces. Well those rubber-tired buggies, it would just mess them up, but it wouldn't hurt the steel tires too bad.
ELW: You ought to tell Russell and Liz about the mussel shells. I'm sure that they don't know about them.
KRW: Well you'll tell them, right there (pointing to the recorder)
TAPE STOPS, THEN STARTS AGAIN.
ELW: When, Dad Charles Kenneth Weedman 1912-90 was a little boy he learned how, one winter when the winter of 1918, it was so bad. And the river froze over.
CKW: Everybody had the influenza; there were more people that died in the Army in WWI from influenza than got killed in combat.
KRW: The white river.
CKW: Yeah, you could drive right across it with a wagon and team.
ELW: And ugh, that was the winter that he and Bernard (Norman Bernard Weedman1911-1955) learned to crochet and learned to...
ELW: Hemstitch and do all this kind of stuff, she (Sara Hilma Malmstrom Weedman 1881-1953) had to do something to entertain the kids, they couldn't get outside. And she said they did all the hand work. She said every tea towel she had was fixed fancy. With there little work.
CKW: We had whopping cough. It was a bad winter in the United States, because so many people died.
ELW: It was a sever, very sever winter.
Tape stops, and then starts.
KRW: Yeah, what kind of cat did you have?
CKW: Just an ordinary old grey cat, called her Ms. Puss. There wasn't a mouse in a half mile of our house.
KRW: Is that right. Y'all didn't ever play any tricks on that cat did you?
CKW: When it would rain why Bernard and I would catch her and tie a paper on her feet and make her dance. She would try to kick that paper off her feet, just. She wasn't too crazy about it, Ha...
KRW: That was your rainy day entertainment.
KRW: Did y'all ever keep any hog?
CKW: Yeah, we always had some hogs. Dad killed about four hogs ever winter.
KRW: Well, you all had to help with that didn't you?
KRW: Help with the rendering.
CKW: And that hogs balder we used to blow up, that was our balloons. Ain't nothing much better than hog brains and eggs.
Tape off, back on.
CKW: Oh, man, that was an awful chore to move that saw mill.
KRW: Did you have some jobs they gave you, some heavy jobs then.
CKW: Well I did everything. Bernard and I would set the engine and set the boilers, and lay the carriage track.
KRW: What did your Dad do, watch?
CKW: He told us how to do it. He was the mill right.
KRW: And y'all were the general flunkies. Well, would you move it by wagon.
CKW: yeah, didn’t have anything else to move it by. Moved it about ever two to four years.
Oh, man was it a job. You'd have to drive a well every time. But we would get our well man to do that. Drive the well. Because you had to have water before you could ever get the thing to run, to get enough water in the boiler to get the steam going. But you would have to fill that boiler up for the first time before they ever got the well down. I mean before they ever got the power on the well, and you would run it by pumping it by a steam engine. We would pump it like this - With a handle. And fill that big old boiler up from pumping it by hand. Oh, man, that would take you days. Hell, I don't know. I guess 25,000 gallons. But you know 20 miles on a wagon with a team was just a slow way to move.
This page was last updated on February 22, 2009.
Back to Main Page