About a decade ago, I spent a large part of a holiday taking an oral history with my grandfather. It was a fantastic experience and I recorded around 20 hours of tape. Over the years, I managed to transcribe the tapes…a slow and painstaking process. I’m not a bad touch typist, but I’d never learned transcription skills.
This year, I finally managed to edit and format the content (still not perfect – my proofing is inconsistent) and transform it into an actual book using Blurb.com self-publishing software. The book itself wasn’t that expensive, but I think it turned out fairly nice. I gave copies to my mother and aunt, my brother and two cousins – and my great-aunt – my grandfather’s sister for Christmas.
I’m not making any money on the book, but the beauty of blurb.com is that I could add a surcharge onto the price of the book – which I’d get to keep as ‘profit’. I probably won’t add anything to the price – but I might – I reserve the possibility. But I definitely won’t do so before 1 April 2010 – I’d like my more distant Powell cousins that I didn’t give copies to the option to buy their own at cost.
And there will always be a free version available to download, too. Here’s a version hosted on Scribd a document sharing website. The content itself has been published under a Creative Commons license – meaning that others can use and re-publish it for non-commercial purposes.
What’s in it?
There’s a lot of family history within the book – but within that there’s an interesting portrait of life in the rural South during the 20s and 30s. It covers my grandfather’s college days at the University of Tennessee, his time working for one of FDR’s government agencies – the Farm Security Administration designed to relieve hardship during the depression, and his time fighting during WWII. It covers his life as a businessman and a local politician in the 50s and 60s – including a period of labor unrest in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee – the Murray Ohio strikes. And if I do say so myself, it’s a pretty good read.