Tag Archives: oral history

No little thing

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.

Bill Powell in his …
By Ingrid Koehler, e…

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.


The Bloody Bucket

I’ve been proofing the oral history I took with my grandfather about a decade ago.  I’m planning to get it printed up via Blurb.com (unless someone can tell me of an easier text-based self-publishing company) and give it to family members for Christmas, so there’s an actual deadline to this project.  Problem is  I hate proofing. I’ve just finished proofing (but have yet to format) Chapter 4 (of 10 – I really better get a move on).

But it’s great to be reading all the stories my grandfather told me.   Mostly it’s been easy to identify chapters and divisions within the chapters because of his great story telling skills.  But occasionally there are these little snippets of stories that don’t really fit anywhere, often because I asked him a question that interrupted his flow.

On one occasion while the tape recorder was rolling I asked him about The Bloody Bucket.  It was a bar of some infamy in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee even though it must have been closed fornearly half a century before I ever heard of it.  I can’t remember how I did hear of it.  But, hear of it I did and, perhaps because of the name, it stuck in my mind.   And I asked my grandfather about it.  This is what he said:

Well, the Bloody Bucket, that was in Lawrence County, it was down there on Buffalo Road, George Stevens owned the land it was on.  And it was a very rough night club.  When I came to Lawrence County, they were just eliminatin’ the sale of beer in the county.  And I assume that they were or they had sold beer in the Bloody Bucket, anyway they fought a lot.  There were a lot of fights and people got drunk, and I’m not positive that somebody didn’t get killed in the Bloody Bucket, but they did in some of the beer joints around.  And it was just a place that had a bad name is all I know.

IK: Did you go in there?

BP: No.  I didn’t cull many places, but I culled that one.


Now, the funny thing about this is notthat there was a rough bar in Lawrence County, though when I grew up it was largely dry.  Yes there were some beer joints in the county, but you couldn’t buy nary a drop of alcohol inside the city limits and it was beer only even in the county.  Though Paul may have said to take a little wine for your health, the good representatives of Lawrence County weren’t taking any chances.     Rednecks are known to drink and sometimes they can get rowdy.  Nor is it that it was called “The Bloody Bucket”.  Though clearly branding in the 30s rural South is something different than what we know today (and apparently it was not the only drinking establishment by that name)

The funny thing is the last line.

My grandfather was a Christian man, church going, he studied the Bible and I never saw him take a drink in my life.  But he says “I didn’t cull many places…”  It’s hard for me to imagine my grandfather frequenting the  drinking dens of Lawrenceburg.   And I didn’t catch it when he said it, but when you’re transcribing you listen to every word.  It just goes to show that y ou tend to hear only what you expect to listen to.