Oral Histories: RACKENSACK HISTORY

 

Interviewee: Aaron Stevens

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Stevens tells his life story from the time he was born in 1884, as he did such things as work for the railroad in 1902, build houses, and run mills. Stevens also recalls many of the stories his father and uncle told him about the Civil War.

 

Interviewee: Adrain Edmunds Parks

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Parks tells of his family’s love for fiddling, a talent that he first discovered in 1932 at the age of thirteen. Parks tells about all aspects of fiddling, including the difference between old time fiddling and blue grass fiddling, the structure of a fiddle, and the different techniques used to create various sounds while playing.

 

Interviewee: Austin Gammill

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview Gammill reveals certain aspects of his family history, before and after his birth in 1909, focusing on his grandfather, Grandpa Cooper, who is remembered for his craftsmanship despite his disability of being crippled in both legs. Gammill also tells about his Uncle George Cooper who shared this talent for construction.

 

Interviewee: Berry Horton

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Horton shares his talent of playing musical instruments with emphasis on the banjo, which he first began playing in 1916 at the age of ten. Horton identifies and performs many of the tunes that he learned how to play.

 

Interviewee: Bill and Dessie Zinn

Interviewer: Vaughn and Kay Brewer

The interview shows the Zinn’s unique way of living in the 1900s along with their knowledge of deep-rooted songs. The Zinn’s still promote their heritage by living their life with some of the same facets, such as continuing to cook with a wood cook stove.

 

Interviewee: Billie Younger

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Younger shares an experience she had as a child in the 1930s when she remembers seeing pixies dancing and playing fiddles outside of her room.

 

Interviewee: Carlos ‘Bookmiller’ Shannon

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: June 12, 1979

In the interview, Shannon expounds on his love of playing the fiddle. He explains how some fiddles are made and describes some of the techniques he uses while performing.

 

Interviewee: Clarence Zinn

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Zinn tells of many of the traditions of his past. Zinn focuses on homemade remedies, which his family would make, telling their purpose and how they were made. For instance, his sister would make an onion poultice to be placed on a person’s chest when he or she suffered from colds and coughs and his father made similar cough medicine out of the inner bark of cherry trees.

 

Interviewee: Claudia Gertrude Gammill

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: October 1979

The interview focuses on Gammill’s family history. She describes how she and her family worked and lived from the time she was born in 1890 and tells of the skills they learned while doing so.

 

Interviewee: Delpha Passmore

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: September 1, 1979

Passmore explains the strange phenomenon that occurs in Stone County. For example, Passmore tells of the old legend of two Jayhawkers who were killed on her grandfather’s farm in Stone County. According to the legend, gold was buried in a dinner kettle along with the Jayhawkers and strange bright lights appear over the graves at random times.

 

Interviewee: Ella Ballentine Fletcher

Interviewers: Vaughn and Kay Brewer

In the interview, Fletcher reports her family heritage, from the time she was born in 1907, as she tells of the musical instruments that they used to play, the natural medications they used to make, and specific events in her family’s past.

 

Interviewee: Essie Ford

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Ford shares her heritage by recollecting on stories and song from her past. For instance, she tells of her experience as her family traveled by wagon when moving to Texas in 1900 when she was only three years old.

 

Interviewee: Floyd Holland

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Holland focuses on his family’s talent and love for playing the banjo, an instrument that he himself began to play as early as the age of ten. Holland shares how his family created homemade versions of these instruments, how and where they played them, and the songs that they would perform.

 

Interviewee: Floyd Mitchell

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview Mitchell tells of his childhood adventures, including killing wild hogs and breaking in the family horses while growing up in Arkansas.

 

Interviewee: Forrest Winston Taylor

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Forrest tells his life story from when he was born in 1906. Taylor talks about many aspects of his life such as the games that he used to play as a child, his various careers and hunting.

 

Interviewee: Garlin Jerome Green

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Green discusses the traditions in Arkansas as he was growing up in the early 1900s, while focusing on many of the natural remedies that were made. For example, a widely known cure to break a fever was to dig snakeweed, boil it, make a tea out of it and drink it.

 

Interviewee: Gertie Morrison Zinn

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview Zinn conveys her family heritage, focusing on their genetic talent for playing musical instruments, mainly the fiddlesticks. Zinn began playing in the early 1900s at the age of seven; therefore, she is able to go into detail about the various techniques used while playing.

 

Interviewee: Gilbert Hess Maloy

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: October 1979

In the interview, Maloy tells stories from his family history. For example, when Maloy was only a small boy Frank and Jessie James came to his father’s house when on their way to Texas and stayed the night while repeatedly patrolling the area.

 

Interviewee: Glen David Branscum

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Branscum shares his family’s musical talents and special interest in religious and western tunes along with their association with Jimmy Driftwood.

 

Interviewee: Glenn Ohrlin

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Ohrlin concentrates on his years as a cowboy. He began to rodeo in 1943 at the age of sixteen and continued to take interest in the heritage of cowboys up until the interview took place.

 

Interviewee: Harmon Avery

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Avery discusses events that occurred in his family’s past. For example, Avery shares stories about his grandfather’s experiences working at a silver mine at the Buffalo River in the early 1900s.

 

Interviewee: Hoover Gilbert

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Gilbert discusses various aspects of his past, during the 1900s, such as game laws, economic issues, and political issues.

 

Interviewee: Howard Wade

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Wade discusses the lifestyle of his grandfather, whom he called Uncle Gandy Wade, as he lived as a farmer and a Baptist preacher in Stone County, Arkansas from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Wade also goes into great detail about how he became such a capable shape note singer and how he continues to practice his talent.

 

Interviewee: Ida and William Ballentine

Interviewer: Vaughn and Kay Brewer

In the interview William Ballentine conveys his father’s lifestyle working as a farmer, a preacher, and a blacksmith in Stone County, Arkansas. Ballentine continues by describing his father’s talent for creating and playing a unique instrument known as the quills as well as his own talent for playing the banjo.

 

Interviewee: Johnny Edward Tuttle

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

The interview tells of Tuttle telling of his experiences growing up in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, focusing on how he went fishing for mussels on the White River, went hunting various animals in the forest, and planted crops in the field.

 

Interviewee: Lillie Whitfield Lancaster

Interviewer: Vaughn and Kay Brewer

The interview focuses on Lancaster’s heritage as she tells of the way of life during the early 1900s as she was growing up as well as her talent for playing the piano and the organ, which she began to play as a girl in 1901.

 

Interviewee: Lillie Ballentine Shipman

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview Shipman tells of her family history along with stories dealing with witches. One such story tells of a witch who would turn herself into a deer and jump over the fence to Shipman’s grandparents field and tear down the cornstalks.

 

Interviewee: Lloyd Richardson

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Richardson tells his life story beginning with his ancestry, which begins with his great-grandfather who came to America from England. Richardson tells of important events in his life, such as when he became a Christian in June 1921, and his interests, such as singing.

 

Interviewee: Lloyd Richardson

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: July 1979

In this interview Richardson demonstrates how he teaches in singing schools by giving his interviewer a singing lesson. Richardson covers many aspects of singing, beginning with the definition of pitch, length, power and quality. Richardson also describes all of the different notes and symbols of music and the importance of different techniques such as pronunciation.

 

Interviewee: Lonnie and Asburn Avery

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: September 6, 1979

The interview begins with the two brothers, Lonnie and Asburn Avery, discussing their skill at playing the banjo and continues as they play some of their favorite tunes using the instrument.

 

Interviewee: Lonnie Lawrence

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: February 22, 1980

Lawrence tells about her life in the 1900’s and many stories about the lives of others, including the Ballentines and the Gilberts. Lawrence also tells about some of the ballads that are part of her heritage.

 

Interviewee: Lottie and John Lee

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, the Lottie and John Lee tell many stories of deaths from their past. One story in particular includes John Lee himself being accused of nearly killing another man.

 

Interviewee: Lucy Johnson

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Johnson tells of her family heritage focusing on her creativity in making dyes and her love and knowledge of many songs she that were part of her culture growing up in Stone County, Arkansas in the 1900s.

 

Interviewee: Lyle Heddrick

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview Heddrick focuses on his ability to play the guitar, the autoharp, and the harmonica as he shares his knowledge of deep-rooted music. His love for playing musical instruments began with the autoharp in 1931 when he was nineteen years old.

 

Interviewee: Marion Horance Smith

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

The interview focuses on Smith’s ability to play the guitar, which he began playing in 1922 at the age of twelve. Smith also mentions the Rackensack group, a non-profit musical organization that he began to participate with in 1963.

 

Interviewee: Mary Ballentine and her daughter Ella Ballentine

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview Mary Ballentine tells her life story as she grew up in Arkansas in the 1900s. She focuses on a variety of topics that give insight into the common lifestyle; for example, she shares the techniques that her family used to preserve and cook different types of food.

 

Interviewee: Mary Tuttle

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

The interview focuses on Tuttle’s talent for needlework, which she first became interested in at the age of twenty in 1938. She shares the story of how she began tatting by looking off of the works of others and how she now creates her own original patterns.

 

Interviewee: Ollie Gilbert

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer and Fred Danker

The interview focuses on the 450 songs, approximately, that Gilbert is able to sing from memory after hearing other people sing them or hearing them on the radio. Gilbert recognizes a large variety of songs and gives the background for many of them.

 

Interviewee: Ollie Gilbert with friends Jimmy and Cleda Driftwood

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer with wife Kay Brewer

The interview focuses on Gilbert’s love for music as she sings a few of the 975 songs she has on written record. Gilbert also gives some background to the songs that she sings. Gilbert also tells many fables that she remembers from her past.

 

Interviewee: Ollie Gilbert

Interviewer: Max Hunter

Date of Interview: 1969

The purpose of this recorded interview is to make a copy of all of the songs that Mrs. Ollie Gilbert has sung for interviewers for her to keep for herself. In this specific interview, Gilbert sings approximately 380 songs.

 

Interviewee: Oscar Scholes with Clara Scholes and Marie Tosh

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer with Kay Brewer

The interview centers around Scholes’ talent for playing the fiddle as he performs a variety of songs while discussing his history playing the instrument. Scholes began to play the fiddle in the early 1900s at the age of thirteen.

 

Interviewee: Percy Copeland and Ida Griffin Copeland

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

The interview focuses on Percy Copeland’s ability to play the harmonica and Ida Copeland’s talent of singing as the two discuss and perform a variety of songs. Percy Copeland was nine years old when he began to play around the 1940s.

 

Interviewee: Raymond Sanders

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview Sanders tells his life story, focusing on the different occupations that he had in his life. For instance, Sanders first went to work in a stave mill in 1905 when he was sixteen years old. He also owned and worked an apple orchard for twenty-three years. Sanders also concentrates on his knowledge of various songs from his past as he sings and discusses many of them.

 

Interviewee: Rob Farris

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

The interview is centered on Farris telling of two town characters: his brother, Ora Farris, and his brother’s friend Oscar Gilbert. The two took enjoyment in pulling pranks around town. For example, one time Gilbert and his brother-in-law each stole a large ham. Gilbert asked his partner in crime where he was going to keep his ham, and after hearing that he was going to keep it under his bed, Gilbert later came and stole it from him and invited him over to eat his own ham.

 

Interviewee: Roy Leadford

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: January 4, 1980

In the interview, Leadford tells his life story while mainly focusing on his love of hunting and trapping various animals, such as raccoons and foxes. He specifically tells of the different techniques of trapping the different types of animals.

 

Interviewee: Samuel Moore

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: September 5, 1979

Samuel Moore describes his life in the 1900s while touching on the lives of other people that he knew, such as Bill Dark, Alman Gilbert, and Ike and Lottie Zinn.

 

Interviewee: Stonewall Treat

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Treat tells of his life in Arkansas during the 1900s by sharing a variety of events that he experienced throughout his lifetime. For example, he tells of the story of when he and his sister saw five little people, which they refer to as pixies, in 1917 when Treat was only six years old.

 

Interviewee: Susan Gilbert Kemp

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

The interview focuses on Kemp telling about all of the songs that her grandmother, Ollie Gilbert, wrote down by hand in order to save them from being forgotten. Kemp does her best to site how her grandmother came about learning each song.

 

Interviewee: Waco Johnson

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

In the interview, Johnson mainly focuses on his educational experience as a child living in Blue Mountain, Arkansas in the mid-1900s. He describes many of the games that the children used to play and the general ways in which his school was run. As a member of the Rackensack Folklore Society, he also describes his history of playing the banjo and plays a variety of songs.

 

Interviewee: Walter Allen Shanks

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Walter Shanks concentrates on his family’s history of working as millers. Shanks describes his experience as a miller in Arkansas in the 1900s, along with the many details of how a mill works.

 

Interviewee: William Ballentine

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Date of Interview: August 16, 1982

The interview begins with Ballentine telling about his family history, beginning with his great-grandparents who immigrated to America from Holland. The interview continues as Ballentine discusses his musical heritage while playing a selection of songs on his fiddle.

 

Interviewee: Willadean George Barnes

Interviewer: Vaughn Brewer

Willadean Burns was born on July 24, 1925. Her interview is centered on Barnes telling about her aunt, Ollie Gilbert. She recalls her aunt singing to her as a child and showing her how to mold figurines out of clay. Barnes also talks about other members of her family. For example her grandmother, Susie Treat, made her own medicines such as mullen tea, which was credited with curing any cough.