Notes: People Interviewed
"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands." Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Jay
History has always been a favorite subject. At first I read books about American presidents, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and others. My father, a 25 year Army veteran, had fought in WW II and this led me into reading about WW II campaigns and generals. I was also the proud owner of the Conifer & Western, a HO-scale model railroad. My reading quickly expanded into studying the history of American railroads and the individuals who built them, from the Union Pacific to Commodore Vanderbilt. Entering high school I enjoyed the panoply of American history no matter the era. It was always stirring to read about major American figures like Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, Robert LaFollette. When I attended the University of Chicago, my first year was a disaster. Second year, I decided to take classes that I enjoyed and I enrolled in a history course taught by Professor Frederic Jaher. He emphasized that history is not merely the story of the most powerful, kings, presidents or generals. History encompasses the stories of "ordinary" people who lived through the events of their day. His thinking enriched my understanding of history, always stayed in my mind and led directly to this project.
When I discovered the forgotten history of the egg farms in Sullivan County, I decided to conduct oral interviews of as many former farmers, spouses or children I could find. In conducting the interviews I did not create a questionnaire or have a pre-determined structure. I approached each interview as a "conversation" about each person's connection to egg farming. I felt that if I could interview enough individuals then I could create from this wealth of information, a tapestry of memory that would create a rich collage of this history. Each conversation became a fascinating journey into the myriad paths and decisions that each individual took, given circumstance and choice. Every individual emphasized the role of hard work, 7 days a week,14 hour a day What was also striking is that for the many individuals whose farm failed, their spirits were never broken. They found another way to make a living to support and raise their family. So many children of egg farmers became successful doctors, engineers, lawyers due to the ethic of work learned by living and working on an egg farm.
Click image to view a biography, sample clips and the full interview of each person