Heritage, Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 1993 Page: 10
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and the quality
of the cotton
crop, and the
price, of course,
that was in effect
at the time you
sold your cotton,
that was the determining
of how well or
how bad the little
Ten Tips For Conducting
1. Research, Research, Research:
You can never know too much. Study
local and regional histories, maps, genealogies,
and newspapers. Familiarize
yourself with the various cultures of the
2. Visit: Try to arrange a get-acquainted
visit with your interviewee
before the first session. Explain the
project and answer any questions or
concerns. Look for a good spot to
conduct the interview.
3. Know Your Equipment: Practice
loading and turning tapes, test your
microphone so you know its range, be
sure you understand and can use the
meters on your recorder. Recharge
batteries you intend to use in advance so you
know how long they last. Check your recording
equipment prior to every interview
to make sure everything is functioning.
4. Prepare: Consider how to ask for
information. Open-ended questions work
best: "Tell me about..." or "Describe..."
Emotions can be hard to get people to
discuss, but they're as important as facts.
Suggest a context: "That must have made
5. Sign a release: Arrange for the permanent
preservation of your work in advance.
Consult with a repository to draw up
an agreement that you and your
interviewees sign that protects the interviews
and regulates their use.
Howard and Olefa Matthies opened a
mercantile in 1939 across from the Farmers
Gin in order to take advantage of the
available trade. As he remembered, "You
know, when the people would have 20
wagons out there at the cotton gin, they
needed a soda water or needed a bar of
candy or a dip of ice cream." Even though
the business became successful, the opening
day left him with doubts:
I'll never forget the first day when we
opened. We had a bench sitting there in the
front of the store. And then a neighbor, the
one that was our neighbor girl, Esther
Boehnemann, she came over and she sat
there, you know. And we just sat there; we
didn't have many customers.
For Oral Nell Wehring Moseley, cotton
production means the Farmers Gin. Her
father was, for many years, the foreman of
Pictured above is the loading area of the Burton Farmers Gin in rural Washington County. Note the remnants
of cotton that are still on the parked wagon.
the operation, and she assisted him as a
teenager by keeping the books and records.
Recalling her memories of work in the gin
office, she provided a vivid account of the
Oh, it was terribly noisy-very, very
noisy. And the office was right above that
big diesel engine down there that they are
restoring. You'd almost have to have
earplugs. . . . You just have no idea how
noisy. But it was so much activity, and it's
just kind of exciting for a youngperson like
me at fourteen to be able to be up there and
have, I felt like, a big responsibility, which
he stories of Williams, Wegner,
Matthies, Moseley, and many others, have
contributed greatly to a new understanding
of life around Burton during the cotton
years. Not all of the oral histories deal with
the past, though; there is also the record of
the present that needs to be preserved for
the future. Doug Hutchinson, a native of
Burton, Ohio, transplanted to Burton,
Texas, provided an overview of the gin
restoration story. The former Main Street
director for Brenham, he was responsible
for the "rediscovery" of the gin as part of an
historic sites survey in the mid-1980s:
So, I'm down there with my cameras and
the weeds are six feet tall and I'm thinking
how many snakes per square foot there
are going to be in this thing. And so I come
10 HERITAGE * WINTER 1993
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 1, Winter 1993, periodical, Winter 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45415/m1/10/: accessed April 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.