I had the privilege to interview a very special lady. Her name is Jessie Leola Gilliland. She was born in 1921, in a house that is still standing today. Leola is a very family oriented person; she has made her family her life. Her husband died in 1971, and she has never even considered becoming remarried. She is very devoted to her family. Leola is not materialistic in any way. She would do anything for anyone.
I noticed that Leola was not very materialistic. She valued the things that people made her, more than the things they bought her. Leola did not wear a lot of makeup or jewelry, she was satisfied with whom she was. Her house was filled with pictures of her family. She also had many things her mother made her, such as china plates. Her mother could make beautiful dishes. What really fascinated me were the glass grapes her mother made. She also had a table that her grandson made her sitting beside her chair. She did not have anything flashy in her house. In a way, her family is her jewels.
I could tell that one of the most important things to Leola was her family. She loves her grandchildren. Leola said, "My grandchildren are the love of my life." She also said, "I have an awfully good family. Just been real close all of our lives, but we're separated now. Have been for years, but we still keep in touch." Leola would love to see her brothers and her sister more. She tries to see them as often as possible. She is very proud of her family. If anyone in her family were in need, she would do her best to help him or her with whatever he or she needed.
Something that touched me greatly was the love that she had for her husband and her mother. It hurt her to talk about her husband. Before she would say something about her husband, she would close her eyes and take a breath. Her husband worked on the railroad. One day he was knocked off the train in Batesville and had his arm cut off. After that she got a job at the post office in Cotter, and he was unemployed. Her husband, Gordon, died of cancer in 1971. She did not remarry, and she probably never even thought about it. A couple of years later, she lost her mother. She was very close to her mother all of her life. She loved both of them with all of her heart.
Leola's life is her family. She prides herself on having such "an awfully good family." She is not materialistic in any way. She would do anything for anyone in her family. Though her husband is no longer living, she still loves the memory of him. I think Leola is a very devoted wife, daughter, and mother. When I am Leola's age, I hope that I will be able to view things the way that Leola does.
G-Are you going to be recording?
M-I'm recording now.
G-Oh! How do you want to start?
M-Well, tell me about, um, where you were born and when.
G-I was born in 1921, right here in Gassville not far from where I live now.
G-The little house I was born in is still here, but it's been moved from that location.
G-One day when I was coming home from work I, that little old house was being moved out on
the highway and I had to look for quite a while to where I could find where it moved to but then I found it. It's still in Gassville and, uh, I have a sister and two brothers. Went to school at Gassville. Went to, uh, 6th grade I guess then went to Cotter. Then I graduated from cotter.
M-So, Gassville had it's own school?
G-Ya, it went to the 8th grade I guess for a long time.
M-I didn't know that.
G-Let me see, I graduated 1939 and there was 13 in my graduating class, and not very many of us living now. At the reunion each year why there's only 2 of my class that ever attend. There's more living than that and let's see.
M-Did you play any sports?
G-I played basketball.
G-I played, um, the first game, the first game that was played, uh, in the old gym when it was new, when it was first new. Played Norfork. We beat em.
M-(laugh) That's always good.
G-And uh let's see.
M-You were homecoming queen?
G-Ya, 1938. Now that wasn't basketball. They had football in Cotter then.
M-So you were the football homecoming queen.
G-uh, 1938 I believe that was the year.
M-Do you remember what you did on your dates?
M-(laugh) Did you go to, were there movie theaters?
G-We had a movie theater in Cotter then. I think it was 25 cents for a movie.
G-and it was just on the weekends, they weren't open every night, and uh, we really enjoyed that.
M-ya I bet.
G-They always had a, uh, rifle or raffle whatever you call it, uh, to see who won; if you had the lucky ticket you won some money. I don't remember how much it was. I don't think I ever won anything, but I don't think it ever went over 25 dollars.
G-But that was a big thing back in those days.
G-That was when I was a teenager, and, uh, I started dating, let's see, sixteen. Didn't have a highschool sweetheart. I, uh, when they had, uh, highschool basketball tournaments at school, uh, my husband played for Gainesville, and then the kids would come down and spend, uh, time with, you know, your home was open to a player.
G-and so uh, 'cause Gainesville was a long ways away then, no paved roads or anything then, and so my husband stayed with a friend of mine, and he of course fixed us up.
G-On a date, and that was it!
G-Let's see, we were married in uh
G-1939 I guess the year I graduated. Yea, that's right.
M-So where did you go after you were married?
G-Did your date have to meet your family? Yes.
G-After we were married he went in the service pretty soon afterwards, and uh, I stayed at home for a while, and then I went to, he had his training in Creek Lakes, Illinois, I went out there and worked on the base. While he was there, and then he was transferred to Norma, Oklahoma, to that base there and I went down there and worked, and uh, then the war was over. He just got in on the last of the war.
M-That was great.
G-It says the depression, what did we think about the depression. Didn't tell us kids that we were poor.
G-(laugh) We were just like everybody else, had just about the same thing as everybody else.
G-So, really we didn't know that we didn't have much. I had the best mama and daddy in the world. They were great. (Sigh) My mother was the first beauty operator in Baxter County.
G-My grandfather, my great grandfather, uh, laid out the plans for the town of Gassville.
G-That was a long time ago and, uh, this property where we, where I , where we build our home here was homesteaded by my great grandfather.
M-Oh. So, it's been like a family.
G-Well, no it wasn't passed down to us, but we noticed on, when we got our, um, deeds, it said on our deeds that our, my great grandfather homesteaded this place. Let's see. Hunting stories. I didn't hunt any.
G-I fished some, and, uh, that was when, uh, most of the fishing I did with my husband. Right after we were married, and on when the Norfork Lake was first formed. Caught us some good ones there.
M-Well, Nathan told me that one of your relatives owned a dock or something a boat dock.
G-My husband, uh, and, uh, I guess five other men had the Cotter Trout Dock now, it's the same one as it is now, same place.
G-Business partners back when by husband ran it. The others were railroad men and, uh, other things ya know so
G-so he ran the station there and, uh, my husband was a railroad freight man. He was knocked off of the train at Batesville, had his arm cut off.
G-So after that why he just didn't work for the railroad anymore, and then I, I worked at the post office at Cotter for 31 years.
G-The last eight years I was post master there.
M-I didn't know that.
G- I worked in an old, old post office where you'd have to carry in coal to keep the cold stove warm, you know coal.
G-and then we, I was there when we moved into our new office, now where it is now.
G-and retired in 1980.
M-Well, do you have any home remedies or something. Because Nathan said you have got one for like a cough or cold or something where you use lemon or something like that.
G-um, vinegar and lemon juice and some kind of liquor, you know
M-Well, do you remember and lullabies or
M-Lullabies, or nursery rhymes or anything like that, that your mom use to tell you or you remember
G-She use to sing and she use to play the organ.
M-Really, do you remember any favorite songs?
G-Not way back, use to be favorite song as a teenager was, uh, "Stardust." Too young to remember that, that was my teenage years, was during the, uh, "Dipsey Dootle" and the uh "Jitterbug."
M-Can you do all of those dances?
G-I remember when I was little, little tot, uh, that's when I must have been 6 or 7 years old. We would go to this barber shop in downtown Gassville, and uh, a little boy and I my age, would go with our parents to go get a haircut, and uh, we'd do the "Charleston" together, and they'd throw money down on the floor for us.
G-Probably pennies. (Laugh)
G-But, uh, that was way back then, uh what was the price of a new car, well, I have no idea what a new car was because we never did have one, not until the later years, but I remember the first car we ever had was a second hand one. It was 300 dollars. We bought it, uh, before the war years. We worked in Detroit, Michigan, and uh, we bought our first car up there. It was 300 dollars.
M-What type was it?
G-Ford I guess 'cause we always had Fords.
G-What was the price of a new dress? Wasn't anything like they are now, I know that, but uh, I guess ten dollars was really a nice dress.
M-Did you make your clothes ever?
G-Don't believe so.
G-Price of gas. I remember one time I was working for my brother down at that station there in Cotter, and he went somewhere and I filled a mans, uh, gas tank up. He came up anyway to fill his tank up, and I spilt gas all over the trunk, and Oh! It liked to worried me to death 'cause I thought I ruined his car!
M-(laugh) Oh my goodness!
G-Filling gas up and it's 25 cents a gallon.
M-Well, what about, well where does your brothers and sisters live now.
G-I have one in California, one in Alabama, and my sister lives in Virginia, Eastern Shore, Virginia. I went out there this Christmas.
M-Well, did you have anyone of your family building the Cotter Bridge or the Bull Shoals Dam?
G-My husband worked, uh, on the, uh, where they had that thing that brought the gravel down off that mountain.
M-Oh. The conveyor belt.
G-yea. He was doing that. He was a railroad freight man that, uh, when he was hired out you were on the extra board for many years. Now so, uh, he would do odd jobs, you know, when you worked for the railroad that was one of the jobs he had then.
M-So, did you move around a lot, or were most of the jobs here in the area?
G-Worked for, worked in Detroit and he went in Service from there and when he came back he hired out on the rail the railroad. Cotter bridge, I can remember, um, that was in 1930. When it was built and, uh, I guess I was 9 years old. I can remember standing on that bridge watching, oh there was a crowd! A lot of people in those days but they were all nearly, all of them rich, watching that floats. My sister was on a float, and it was beautiful. It was Gassville's float, and uh, it was, uh, rainbow 'cause that's a rainbow bridge.
G-That's what it's called, the Rainbow Bridge. So, this float had a rainbow on it, and they had steps down and they had four girls riding on it. My sister was on that. Oh boy! I thought that was really something. I can't remember who made a speech though. (laugh)
G-Use to have an old theater down here in Gassville when I was real young, and uh, old, uh, silent movies, you know, you read what they are saying.
G-And there was no color, and that was on Saturdays, Saturdays in the afternoon.
M-Well, do you remember your first television?
G-yea, We had on of the first televisions that, uh, uh, in Cotter. We had on of the first ones in Cotter, and uh, we went to see my brother in California, and uh, he was, he worked on televisions. That's his job, you know, he gave us televisions to bring back with us on the back of the car.
(Door opens and in enters her daughter Althea.)
A-I won't disturb ya.
G-and then you could not see to well, you know, it wasn't clear for a long time.
G-but any ways we enjoyed that, we didn't have air conditioning then. We had a fan that had water. That was pretty cool. I think.
A-Are you recording this?
M-Well if there is nothing else, is there anything else?
G-During the summer we use to swim below the railroad bridge in Cotter when I was young, jumped off the piers there into the water it was a good swimming hole.
G-Didn't know anything else. What did you do for fun during the winter? Well, if , I said if my grand kids or my daughter even did what I did when I was young, when I was a teenager, that it would have scared me to death. We use to get on top of that Cotter hill and when it would snow, and ice and everything, and we would go down on the sled all the way down turn that curve down there.
M-Oh my goodness!
G-and go to where the bridge hits, you know.
G-and that's the stopping part, point, and sometimes we would go down three deep. (laugh)
G-of course, you couldn't have cars weren't coming up, 'cause there wasn't, cars couldn't have made it up. Didn't have very many card anyway.
M-Did anyone get hurt?
G-A boy and a girl were killed.
G-They hit, uh, right down at the end. Right were you come off of the bridge. That was really a lot of fun. I couldn't imagine. Of course there would be traffic now. Where there wasn't then.
M-yea. Well, how did you get to school? Did you ride a bus or walk?
G-Didn't have buses. No walked, um, when we lived out here at Gassville, went to school here why, um, we walked, and see we liked the winter. We had more snow then we do now. I can remember, uh, the neighbor next door, uh, telling her son. Now Henry you make tracks for those girls now so they can walk in your tracks. And that's when we went to school out here, and then Cotter. Why we lived down close to town and walked to school. I never rode a bus.
M-You're lucky. Well not really, I guess 'cause you had to walk. Well, did they ever close school because of the weather, or because of harvesting?
G-No, because, um, you see all we had was just schools were just like this Gassville school. Just children around Gassville and Cotter was the same. So, everybody walked to school. They didn't have to close school. Says right here. What happened to people if the became pregnant before marriage. I never did know of any, any kids in school that became pregnant.
G-Just wasn't there. I belonged to the rainbow girls, um, that the rainbow girls was like the, uh
M-Like girl scouts?
G-Eastern Star. Children of the Eastern Star. Parents, you know, I was the first, uh, worthy advisor in that when they first organized that. My mother belonged to the Eastern Star. Now we went to, uh, to a service or a place that everyone went to. We had a lot of, uh, dance home parties. Where we'd dance and we had a special, uh, house that had that one of the girls had a big house that had a big living and dining room together with these, uh, hard wood floor. We'd go there and oh we'd have a good time dancing, and uh, uh, someone played the piano. And, uh, some folk dancing. Then we had a lot of, uh, I don't know what they call them now, but we called them bunkin parties, sleep ins.
G-Is that what you call them now?
G-Well they called them bunkin parties, and we would, uh, oh we would have lots of fun. We'd make candy, and make the awfulest messes of candy. That was a lot of fun. I remember the old telephone office girl that, uh, her mother ran the telephone office in Cotter. When we'd have a bunkin party at her house, we'd get up and, uh, this girl knew how to work the machines there, you know, and we'd call people and play jokes on people. (laugh)
M-(laugh) People do that nowadays too.
G-I can't think of anything else. Price of gum when you were a kid. I guess a stick was, uh, I don't remember.
M-Well, did you have a general store, or a place where all the kids went before or after school to get candy or something?
G-No, we didn't, we didn't gather at places like they do now. Of course they didn't have cars like they do now. Just didn't have a place to gather. Use to go, see Cotter was a bigger town than Mountain Home when I was a teenager. More than anything Mountain Home moved in, kids from Mountain Home would come to Cotter. Moved in and dated the girls down there. Wasn't much, but different now.
G-The railroad went out and why messes it up.
M-Well, can you play any instruments like the piano? Can you play the piano?
G-No, I took piano lessons, but I didn't want to practice.
M-That's what I did. I took it for two months or something. I can read the notes and stuff, but I can't really
G-I wish I had, but, uh, I didn't. My daughter plays. My grandchildren are the love of my life now.
M-Well, is there anything really special or any certain thing that you think you are really good at. You've got a really good family.
G-I have an awfully good family. Just been real close all of our lives, but were separated now. Have been for years, but we still keep in touch.
M-May I take your picture. Smile. There you go. Do you have any pictures, or I saw that suitcase full of pictures?
G-Is your machine turned off?
On Thursday, February 4th, 1999, I left work at 6:00. About two miles out of Gassville on Highway 62-412, I turned right into Leola's driveway. It was about 6:15 when I arrived. I hopped out of my car and faced the garage. The lawn was well kept and there were a few trees. The house had many windows and was made of white, yellow rock that looked like brick. I buzzed the doorbell and she came to the door that was inside the garage.
Her hair was very white and short. It looked very nice. She wore glasses and had on some makeup. She wore a red button up cotton shirt and black pants. She was almost five feet tall and about medium in her weight.
She invited me to come in and she said that she would be back in a little while. I walked through the laundry room that was very clean, and into the kitchen. There wasn't much light, but it was warm. Everything was clean and in its place. There wasn't a distinct smell. I walked through the kitchen into the livingroom where I prepared myself for our interview.
About ten minutes later she came back and I found out that she had gotten me some cheese sticks. She turned on the livingroom light and sat down in her blue recliner. There was a table that her grandson made her sitting beside her chair. There was also a standing lamp beside her chair. I was sitting on the couch that was white with blue flowers on it. Then she asked me what type of questions I would be asking her. I had some sample questions written out on a piece of paper at which I let her look. I then pulled up a chair from a table and sat nearer to her. She asked me if I would be taking pictures. I told her that I was. So, she said that she wanted to put more lipstick on. She went into her bedroom and I started recording. She came back into the livingroom and looked over my questions. She asked me if I was going to be recording and I told her that I had already started.
We started the interview and she was kind of nervous in the beginning. I noticed that every time she talked about her husband or mother, both are deceased, her face would show some pain or discomfort. She loved her mother very much. Her husband was also very important to her. He died of cancer in 1971, and she has stayed single ever since.
She was a very devoted, loving, and caring person. She was very simple and sweet. For example, she did not wear very showy clothing or jewelry. She always puts her family before herself. She would do anything to help anyone out. Well, we were almost done with the interview and her only daughter, Althea, came to visit. We finished the interview and I stopped recording.
She became more relaxed and started to be herself again. We ate the cheese sticks. Then she showed me some of the things her mom made. Her mom could make beautiful things out of just about anything. Each year for Christmas her mom would make a plate for each of her children. She had these plates displayed all throughout her house. On her walls she had many pictures of her family. She even had one of me. She had a formal living room that she uses when important guests come over. We did the interview in the informal living room. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. One of the bathrooms is in her room. Everything was well kept and special to her. Her house was quite big for one person, but at one time it was just right for her family. Her husband and she built the house together so she does not want to move.
She then showed me some pictures of her family. Her grandson, Nathan, came home from work at about 8:30 p.m. She fixed him something to eat and we visited some more. At about 9:30 p.m. I decided to leave. She gave me a hug and told me that she would see me again soon. I thanked her for her time and then I left.
The South Shore Project has taught me how important preserving the past is. I have never really thought much about the past and how very important it is until now. Doing this project has been fun and exciting. This project has also been harder work than I expected, but it was worth it. It has taught me many things about the past.
First, this project has taught me the importance of preserving the past. The past has many important lessons to teach. People need to learn from the past so it does not repeat itself. A person can learn a lot from the past, both good and bad. So, preserving the past will help prepare us for the future.
Second, this project has given me the chance to get to better know someone that is very special to me. I was able to ask personal questions that I would not normally ask. What really amazed me was how much my interviewee remembered. She can remember things as if they happened just yesterday.
Finally, the most important thing that I learned was how much things have changed. In today's world, being pregnant before marriage may be a common thing. Well, back in the past, being pregnant before marriage hardly ever happened. Family life was very important. Many women would give up their dreams and careers to raise a family. Nowadays, people are letting strangers raise their children just so that they can have a career.
In conclusion, this project has proven to be more than I expected. It has given me the chance to get to know a great person better. It has also taught me many lessons, such as my teenage years are probably the best years of my life. This project has also taught me how important the past is. I am very thankful for having the chance to do this project.