My grandparents at Christmas time in 1997.

I chose to interview my memaw and granddaddy to find out more about what makes them who they are as a pair. I interviewed them together, because my memaw did not trust my granddaddy to do it alone. She thought it would be best if they were questioned together that way she could keep him in line. My granddaddy tends not to take things very seriously, so it was a little odd to ask questions that would require serious answers.

Me: Okay, so what is your earliest memory?

Granddaddy: Of what?

Memaw: Tommy!

Me: Any memory. What is your earliest memory together? We’ll say that.

Granddaddy: Of together? I guess going to the Atlanta fair.

Memaw: We were in highschoool. The FFA and FHA went to the southeastern fair in Atlanta each year. That’s basically when we started liking each other.

Me: Okay. How different is life now compared to when y’all were my age?

Granddaddy: Well, when I was your age, gas was about 25 to 30 cents a gallon and now it’s $2 a gallon.

Me: Okay, what do you have to say Memaw?

Memaw: Things were harder to do, we didn’t have as many conveniences, but it seemed like we had more time to be together as a family then than we do now.

Me: So, are you glad that you became a farmer?

Granddaddy: Yes. My great granddaddy was a farmer, my granddaddy was a farmer, my daddy was a farmer, and what did you think I was going to do?


Me: Did you ever wish that you did something else?

Granddaddy: Not really. If I did anything else it would have probably been a truck driver, and Memaw said I’d have run over everybody being a truck driver.

More Laughter

Me: So, how do you think that farming has shaped you, Granddaddy?

Granddaddy: Has what?

Me: Shaped you.

Granddaddy: Shaped me?

Me: Yeah.

Granddaddy: Oh, it’s shaped me very well. You have to learn how to handle your money and hold on to it and not spend very much.

Me: How do you think that farming has shaped our whole family?

Memaw: I think they probably have higher morals than a lot of people and that we appreciate the things that God has given us, like this beautiful land we live on.

Me: So where is your favorite place in the world? Is it right here?

Granddaddy: I, I would think it’d be right here, probably. That’s where I stay the most.

Me: Okay, what is your favorite tradition of our family?

Granddaddy: Well, I love to get together. Every Sunday we eat together. Every holiday our whole family, like her brothers and sister come and eat with us and all, and we have a good time.

Me: Do you have anything to say?

Memaw: Just, being together with family and having Sunday lunch together every week is one of our strongest traditions.

Me: What do you miss most about your childhood?

Granddaddy: Well, my childhood I used to ride a horse and all. And she says I’m too old to do that now, so I can’t do that now. I tried to get my granddaughter to ride a horse, but she hadn’t done that yet neither.

Me: What about you Memaw?

Memaw: Something I remember from the past that I miss?

Me: Yeah.

Memaw: Well my daddy grew up as one of ten children and his whole family came to my grandma and grandpa’s house each Sunday. And I had like about 36 first cousins and we had a good time. We made playhouses, and mudpies, and chased goats, and did all kinds of things. It was just fun to be together with that many kids that you loved.

Me: What do you remember about your grandparents? What were they like?

Granddaddy: They were real nice. We used to have to go and work for my granddaddy. Like, plow the ground and all. I used to love to go down there and his wife would always have us a real good meal.

Me: What about you Memaw?

Memaw: Like I said, I had 36 first cousins on my daddy’s side of the family and my granddaddy, it was like every one of them thought he loved them the most. I know I thought he loved me the most. But he was, he was just a sweet, kind man. He played the organ and had us sing together. When we’d go home we’d get in a line and he would give each one of us a little brown paper bag that would have like a stick of peppermint candy and a penny or two in it. But he would give each one of us that when we left that day.

Me: Are you glad your sons followed in your footsteps?

Granddaddy: Yes, I’m glad. I wish both of them had but one of them decided he wanted to be a banker and not follow in my footsteps, but I’m glad the other one is here. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

Me: Okay.

Memaw: She’s laughing at us.

Me: Do you think you’d be able to thrive in 1700 Scotland, or would you have made the same choice to move to another country, like your ancestors did.

Granddaddy: Oh, I don’t how Scotland is. I never have been there, but I probably could’ve lived there all right.

Me: How do you think religion has shaped our family, or just yourself?

Memaw: Religion?

Me: Yeah.

Memaw: It’s a big part of our life. We both grew up in church. We still attend church regularly. Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday night. We put our faith in God.

Me: Do you remember the first time you saw Gone with the Wind?

Memaw: I can’t remember what year it was, but I’ve seen it several times over the years.

Me: And what were your thoughts about that movie?

Memaw: It was sad.

Me: Could you relate to it in any way?

Memaw: Yes, because we grew up on a farm and a lot of that was about people who owned plantations and things. We never had a plantation and we didn’t have slaves, but we did have people that worked there with us. It just made you realize that things did happen, that shouldn’t have happened years ago.

Me: Have your religious views or standpoints changed over time? Or are they still the same as they were back in the day?

Memaw: Basically the same.

Me: Do you have, like a favorite scripture or story in the Bible?

Memaw: Course everybody likes the 23rd Psalm, but I like the story of Naomi and Ruth.

Me: Were you surprised when my dad decided to marry someone of Asian descent?

Memaw & Granddaddy: Not really.

Memaw: Because she was the niece of my best friend and she had always been around us. We loved her since she was just a little girl.

Granddaddy: We were happy to get her in the family.

Me: How would you describe home, like what does that word mean to you?

Memaw: Physically, home is this farm that we live on, but home in your heart is where you’re with your family. It doesn’t have to be in a certain house or a certain place. It’s just being with your family and the people you love.

Me: Is there anything that you would change about your life?

Granddaddy: No, not really. No, not a whole lot. I’m very satisfied with my life.

Me: You’re happy?

Granddaddy: Mm-hm.

Me: If you could relive any memory in your life, what would you choose?

Granddaddy: I just don’t know there’s so many. We went, one time, with our youngest son to Montana and I loved that out there and I would love to go out there again, and you know to do it again sometime.

Me: If you could forget any memory in your life, would you do that?

Granddaddy: No, I’m fine

Me: How did you fall in love?

Granddaddy: Well, actually I was dating her first cousin, and then I got to know her and I just fell in love with her.

Me: Is that how it happened Memaw?

Memaw: That’s about right.

Me: So what is your favorite thing to do?

Granddaddy: I guess to work.

Me: Okay, what is your favorite thing to do (Memaw)?

Memaw: Just be with family.

Me: Do you think the tradition of farming will continue to be passed on through the future generations of this family?

Granddaddy: I think it will. I think if I can ever get Jarrett (my brother) caught up on making knives he’ll get more interested in it.

Me: Is there anything else y’all want to say?

Granddaddy: We love our granddaughter.

Me: I love y’all too.

My memaw and granddaddy with me before my senior prom. (2014)

Smithsonian Guide to Oral History Reflection

● How does your tradition-bearer’s story relate to your community in both the present and the past? How does it relate to you?

I think it relates to our community through the importance of farming. We’re from a very rural community and the majority of the county consists of farmland. Currently and historically our community has always had a small town feel. Almost everyone farms, and religion plays a large role in the community just like it does for my grandparents.

● How did your perception of community history change, from before the interview to now?

My perception did not really change at all. I’ve talked to both of my grandparents about what life was like when they were younger and how things since then have changed. A lot of the information consisted of things I already had a general idea about.

How did this project inspire you to learn more about your community?

This project inspired me because it gave me the opportunity to sit down with my grandparents and just ask them question after question for an actual purpose. It inspired me to find out more about the different viewpoints and factors can shape a person or a community.

What were some of the challenges you faced during this project? What could you do differently in your next oral history interview?

Honestly, I had to face very few challenges when it came to producing this oral history. The only problems were finding a time when both of my grandparents were free, and making sure that they were both comfortable enough with the questions to answer them. If I were to do this again I would probably try to think of more complex questions that required longer and thoughtful answers. I would also do a single person interview, because I think it would be easier to focus on one person.

If the roles were reversed and you became the tradition-bearer, what stories would you like to tell?

I would like to tell the stories that shaped me into the person I am today. Most of those would include childhood memories about where and how I grew up. Others would be about the choices that I’ve made, good or bad, that have had the largest impacts on my life.