[Transcript of interview with Dean Bruton, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]

Recorded as part of the Greene County Library District’s 2010 Big Read.  We are talking with Dean Bruton and the date of the podcast is March 11, 2010.

Q:        Good morning Dean.

A:         Good morning, good morning.

Q:        I hear you have a story or two about the depression.

A:         Well, I was born right in the middle of it, in July 1935.  And my father was working on a farm running a steam engine for a threshing crew making a full dollar a day. 

Q:        Oh, a dollar a day!

A:         A dollar a day.

Q:        That was good money back then.

A:         It was the only money.  There wasn’t much money around.  But that is one of the things I remember.  As a little boy, Dad took me to pick corn, and he let me drive the horses.  I was about three – I ‘thought’ I was driving the horses.

Q:        Well now, what did that look like? Was it a buggy or something?

A:         Well it was a big four wheel wagon and it was cold and he told me later that I got cold so he built a fire in the middle of the field so I could stay warm. 

Q:        How many horses were there?

A:         Just two – two horses.

Q:        Do you remember their names?

A:         No, I don’t.  Grandpa had the horses and one was named Trixie but I don’t remember the other name.  That was a long time ago. 

Q:        So those horses knew what they were doing?

A:         Well, they didn’t need to be slapped with the reins very much, but they didn’t run.  Anyway I was born over at Rogersville in Webster County, north of Henderson.  Henderson was a little cross place in the road that got put out of business when the railroad came through Rogersville in the 1870’s.  And there was a story that I read that Springfield would never amount to anything because it was too close to Henderson.  One of my ancient relatives ran an academy there in Henderson.  It was a big building, some sort of building, it wasn’t high school, it was after high school, but he was a doctor and a pharmacist and a minister and he ran that academy, call the Henderson Academy.  And the building was there for years but it has been gone awhile.  My dad was the oldest boy out of seven boys.  My mother was one of nine.  So I had a huge family.  I had cousins by the dozen, as I used to say.  Right now I am the senior Bruton of the family, I am 75 or will be soon.  My grandpa was the clan leader if you will, then my father was the clan leader, and now I am the clan leader. 

Q:        Well, what does that mean?

A:         Well, it means the oldest son was the leader of the family.

Q:        Did people come to you for advice then? 

A:         Well they did, and still do but in a smaller way now as times are different.  But grandpa with all those kids, he was the chief and nobody would dispute it.  He wasn’t abusive about it but he was the man who ran the family, morally and spiritually.  In many ways my dad followed in those footsteps and I have tried, in my own way.

Q:        Did you get together, were there a lot of family get-togethers?

A:         Oh yes, it seemed like going to grandpa’s on Sunday was just the thing.  All the uncles, aunts, and cousins were always there and we all got along well.  We weren’t a squabbling family like some other families I have known.  In fact, the other side of my family.

Q:        Uh-Oh, uh-oh!

A:         But anyway we had good times and my cousins were my best friends.

Q:        What kind of things did you do for fun?

A:         Oh, it was a rural area, and we would just play like kids do.  We had to haul water from a spring up a steep hill, carried it up in buckets and there was cattle around.  But we just had a good time, just being kids. 

Q:        Climbing trees?

A:         Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Q:        And I understand you played sports when you were younger.

A:         Yeah, I started playing softball when I was 15.  We had a one room country school which I will get to later, but we played softball.  It was a one room country school with no water except a pump and an outhouse or two and a little building out back that was a cook shack where our cook cooked our lunches.  We had excellent lunches.

Q:        What did she make?

A:         Oh, peanut butter and honey was my favorite.

Q:        Was it homemade bread? 

A:         Oh yeah, she cooked everything.  Well the government produced some of the food but it was an excellent meal.  She was named Grace, in fact later I bought the house she used to live in and lived there for 25 years.  But it was good times.  I walked to school, about a mile and a half.  It wasn’t up hill both ways but I loved it.  I didn’t miss a day of school my eighth grade year.  I would build the fire every morning.  I would soak corncobs in kerosene and put them in and light them and throw a little coal on top of it and that would build the fire.  And at the end of the day I dusted.  I think I got a whole sum of $2 a week for doing that.  That was big money!

Q:        Wow!  So you dusted everyday?

A:         Yes, after school. 

Q:        Oh my goodness!

A:         It wasn’t a big deal.

Q:        You got really good at dusting then.

A:         Oh sure, we didn’t have a vacuum either.

Q:        Did you sweep as well?

A:         I did.  I have forgotten now what all my duties were but it didn’t take me very long.

Q:        What do you remember about the teacher?

A:         Best teacher I ever had.  Her name was ______ Ferguson.  A well known teacher in the Republic area.  The school was called Bueller School as a matter of fact, right across from where the new high school is now, on the corner there, and I graduated from the eighth grade there in 1950.  Mr. Ferguson was there a long time nearing the end of his career, and he encouraged me.  I had gone to six or seven different schools over the years and I had gotten way behind by then because we moved around a lot.  We settled there when I was in the sixth grade and he got me caught up.  He taught me a lot of things, like the love of reading, which I am still with of course.

Q:        I can attest to that.

A:         Yeah, he encouraged me and gave me good marks and bragged on me.  He was a good teacher.  He sent good students on to high school.  There were four of us that graduated from the eighth grade in 1950.  All four of us are still living and I am real close to all of them to this day.  In fact I talked to one of my friends in Atlanta the day before yesterday.  And another one was here in a meeting here just the other day. We are all still close. 

Q:        So not everybody went on from your class to high school:

A:         The four of us did, yeah.  Charles graduated from college and became an engineer, one of my high school friends.  He is retired now and has health problems, but we are still very close. We either talk on the phone or e-mail.  He lived nearby until recently when he moved back to Atlanta.

Q:        What do you think you learned from your experiences as a child growing up during the depression period?  What kinds of things do you think shaped you?

A:         Well, we were like most of the people around us, poor by today’s standards.  We didn’t have a lot of money but my dad was a hard worker and set a good example.  We were just close. We shared equally nothing in many cases.  But it was a good experience.  You know I started school in September 1941 prior to World War II at Sequiota which was on Highway 65 at the time, down by Sequiota Park.  There was a little three room school there.  But I started there with my cousins and one of my older cousins helped me out and taught me how to use the pencil sharpener, that was a big deal back then.

Q:        I bet it was!

A:         It was!  But there were other cousins.  My cousin Bill and I were in the same grade and he managed to get us a couple of whippings.

Q:        Uh-oh!

A:         He would poke at me and I would poke back and the last one that does the poking always manages to get caught.  But the teacher took the edge of a board about two inches wide, it was the end of the desk actually, and whipped us both for fighting in class.

Q:        Oh my goodness?  And then did you have to go home and tell your father what happened?

A:         Of course, of course, but he knew who the instigator was.

Q:        So he knew Bill was responsible?

A:         He knew Bill, he knew Bill.  On the way home from school there was a little creek running through there and we lived down the road in an old Garrison store, which is a building that is still there as a matter of fact.  There is some kind of antique store in it.  But anyway, we stopped to go fishing and I got home a little bit late, quite a bit late as a matter of fact.  Bill took his fish and went home and I took mine home and I got a whipping.

Q:        Uh-oh!

A:         I was in the closet changing clothes when Dad came home and Mom told him I was way late, so he took a hickory switch and lit up my legs.

Q:        Uh-oh!  What happened to the fish? 

A:         I don’t remember what happened to mine but Bill took his home and his mother cooked them.  She didn’t care!

Q:        Did you have to be home at a certain time to do chores?

A:         No, it wasn’t a rural area then, but Mom just knew that when I was supposed to be home, I was supposed to be home.  And she was very strict about that.  When I first started school there, we lived on the James River, and my dad ran the farm there, back in 1941 like I mentioned.  He got exemption from the draft because he was a farmer at the time, but later when we moved away from the farm, he got drafted when he was already in his forties and had four children.  But at the last minute he failed the physical so he didn’t have to go – he was lined up to go into the Navy but he didn’t have to go.  I don’t know what we would have done because Mom didn’t drive and of course I guess my uncles and aunts would have taken care of us. 

Q:        So your father didn’t have to go into the Navy but you are a military man?

A:         Well I dropped out of college right after high school and didn’t have the money to go and didn’t do well enough in grades either, so anyway I joined the Marines in 1955 and spent three years in the Marines.  It was a great time.  I was young.  I was at Camp Pendleton (sp?) as my Marines now call Hollywood Marines. 

Q:        Why do they say that?

A:         Because it was close to Hollywood. 

Q:        Oh I see, okay.

A:         I would on liberty over in Burbank because my cousin, Bill, lived in Burbank. 

Q:        Bill the poker?

A:         Yeah, Bill is the one that got me the whipping, or helped get me the whipping.  Anyway, he lived in Burbank.  He was married and had a little girl. I would go to Burbank to spend the weekends and we would drive around Hollywood and some other places.  He had a brand new ’57 Mercury.

Q:        Oh my!

A:         So we thought we were in tall cotton.

Q:        I guess so!  Now when did you meet Martie?

A:         I came home on leave in March of  ’57 when my grandfather died and I met her.  She was at the funeral with two of her friends who I knew who were singers and they sang at the funeral.  She was with them and I met her then.  And we started dating then and wrote letters back and forth until we got married in June of 1958.  So we actually dated about three weeks but we wrote letters.

Q:        Now were you out of the Marines?

A:         No, I was not quite out, I got out in September after we were married in June.  In fact, the first time I dated her, my dad said now son, that is the girl for you.

Q:        Really?  Well, it was love at first sight!  Or he loved her.

A:         Well, he already knew her. 

Q:        Oh, that’s right, she was living here.

A:         She was going to church where he did so he already knew her.  He knew her character before I did.

Q:        So she had his blessing right from the beginning.

A:         Right off the bat!

Q:        Well, what about your mother?  Did she love her?

A:         Well my mother died at age 49, well my mother loved her too but she died at age 49 in 1967, so she had a lot of health problems her whole life.  And my dad died at age 70 in 1978.  I had good family.  My parents were good.  My dad was honest and hard working.

Q:        It sounds like you are carrying on that tradition.

A:         Well, trying to.  We do the best we can but sometimes it doesn’t work.

Q:        You have some kids too?

A:         I have three children, my son who is now 50 and he has three boys, one of them was a college graduate and a policeman in Kansas City for a couple of years now he is back in our area.  And he has given me our first great-grandson.  His brothers Carl and Tyler are Naval cadets in the academy.

Q:        Oh that’s right, the twins.

A:         The twins are Naval cadets in the academy.  They will be home tomorrow as a matter of fact, on spring break and we are looking forward to that.

Q:        I bet.

A:         Yeah.

Q:        That’s a tough thing to do.

A:         Tyler just announced that he just finished a 26 mile marathon.

Q:        Really?

A:         I will be sore tomorrow, he said.

Q:        I imagine so.  Those marathons are tough.  So they take after grandpa.

A:         They are athletes.  Their daddy was an athlete.  My daddy was an athlete until he threw his arm away back in the 20’s pitching a double header in baseball. 

Q:        Really?

A:         Yeah.

Q:        What kind of team was it?

A:         Just a country club city team. He never did get specific about it but it was back when he was a young man he decided to pitch a double header but that didn’t work.

Q:        Uh-oh!  That was the end of the arm.

A:         My son was an athlete.  He still plays.  He played in the national over 45 tournament last year and they won it.  Of course I played until I was 70. 

Q:        That’s right!

A:         Yeah, I retired when I was 70.  Made headlines in the newspaper and T.V. spot.

Q:        What made you decide you were done?

A:         Well, Aaron was moving away, my short stop and my catcher and Jeff was watching his boys play and without them I really didn’t want to play.

Q:        So it didn’t have anything to do with…..

A:         No, I would still play tomorrow, maybe an inning.

Q:        Or two.

A:         Or two.  But it was just time to quit.  I love it and it is the best sport, I think, going.  Kind of like golf, you can play for along time, if you don’t hurt yourself. 

Q:        If you’re lucky!

A:         Yeah!

Q:        Well, Dean it has been a pleasure talking with you today, and thank you for recording this for us.

A:         Thanks for inviting me to do this.

[Transcript of interview with Dean Bruton, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]