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[Begin Tape #1, Side #1]

KLEE: The following is an unrehearsed interview by John Klee with Mr. Ira Massie for the Kentucky Oral History Commission. The interview's being conducted at on July 17, 1985. Let's begin and tell me a little bit about your . . . your family background. Your parents, where you were born.

MASSIE: John, I was borned in on November 13, 1919 of parents who had just recently married about ten months before, and they both were quite young. My mother was sixteen when I was born and my dad was nineteen. And we moved to shortly after that, in , where we operated on a small farm, a blind man's farm would you believe, as a tenant. And so we lived on that farm for about, oh, six, seven years before my dad decided, hey, I want a farm of my own. So he bought a little farm in and we moved back to then.

KLEE: What about brothers and sisters? Do you have any sisters?

MASSIE: Had three brothers, all younger than I, of course; I was the oldest.

KLEE: Yes, you were the oldest.

MASSIE: And we were spread out about four years apart. And by being the oldest, of course, I always felt like that . . . oh, what would you say, that I . . . I shared the brunt of the whole thing [chuckle] because along about the time that I was big enough to go to the field and work, the Depression set in, and believe you me, we had to work because we were buying farms and my brothers were coming on, and we needed to survive, and we . . . we really had to dig and dig and dig. And so I worked hard while I was a youngster.

KLEE: Let's talk about your father's struggle there, to get his own farm. Now tenancy, tenant farmers used to be something that was just as common as anything. And today it's . . . it's really dropped a lot. Did he talk much . . . were you old enough when he was a tenant, or did he buy the farm when you were relatively young?

MASSIE: I really was not old enough to know what he thought about a tenant and being a tenant on a farm in . However, as . . . as I grew up and as we talked about farming, I was . . . he left no doubt in my mind but what he did not wanna be a tenant. And my dad was a very strong man, and he did not want anybody telling him that he had to do this and he had to do that. So the only way he could get away with that is to buy a place of his own. Now, you know . . . well, most of us that were borned in that era realizes that there simply was not any money in anything. And so he didn't have enough money to buy this farm, but he borrowed, I think a hundred dollars from his sister as down payment, and bought a little ninety acre farm, I think for about a thousand dollars and we went to farming. That's the way we started.

KLEE: It's interesting. My dad was born about the same time as you and he said, he kind of tells a similar story. When he bought that farm, the Depression had made things even worse.

MASSIE: It did.

KLEE: It was harder to make those payments.

MASSIE: Yes. I . . . I quite well remember. Course I was eight, nine, ten years old at that time, you see. And I quite well remember how difficult it was for us to make a payment. And then buy enough necessary items that we needed to survive because I'm not sure that we could survive today like we did then. We didn't have any electricity. We didn't have any water in the house. We had to carry water for, it seemed like to me, a half a mile, and no telephone, and it was difficult. It was difficult in those days. Course we didn't need a lot of money but it was difficult to survive.

KLEE: What . . . what do you think, from your . . . from your father was the . . . some of the qualities that you obtained from him? Hard work, maybe?

MASSIE: Oh . . . yeah, hard work. But I think more than anything else, a . . . a dominant sort of characteristic. In other words, he . . . he was not an individual that . . . if you . . . if you met him and talked with him, you'd say well here's a real easy-going man. You could get along with him, agree with him, and that's right. You could agree as long as you'd agree halfway with him. But if you tried to take advantage of him or anything like that, he . . . he soon got up on his hind heels. I think strength of character is the way I would say it, more than anything else. Surely he wanted work, and many, many times I've gotten up at three o'clock in the morning and milked eight cows and got the horses up and geared them, had breakfast and then go to the field and sit down and wait until it got light enough to go to work in the field. Many a time I have done that. So no question about it. He . . . he was exemplified in hard work, but I think that's strength of character had more to do with our . . . our area of family living than anything else.

KLEE: You mentioned your father, and you know, the kinds of things that he emphasized, but obviously in that kind of setting, you mother had a very difficult time and a big job.

MASSIE: Yes she did. Totally different from what women are today and totally different from what I've got because she was a . . . a lady of the old school. She believed in serving the family, almost worshipping the family, a little more so than I think she should. For example, when I entered high school, I had a clean, white shirt everyday ironed for me to wear to school. Well that was unnecessary. But that was the way that she showed her loved to the family and I think she worshipped my dad, is the only way I can put it. And they had their differences of course, but the final say was my dad, and this is the strength of character I think I got from my family.

KLEE: Well, you mentioned taking care of the cattle and getting a team of horses ready for work. What about . . . one of the things I think that has changed is that . . . that farm that you lived on as a child was probably a diversified operation, wasn't it?

MASSIE: Very much so. Very much so.

KLEE: Tell me about that. What kinds of things did you do on that?

MASSIE: We had . . . the cows, or the cattle that I mentioned first, because today . . . I wonder if we'll make as many mistakes in the next thirty years as we've made in the last thirty years? Because we're just now getting around to crossbreeding in cattle. My dad, that's the only way he'd have it. And course a lot of people laughed at us back in those days. Crossbreeding! Why never heard of such thing. But that's the only way he'd have it. So he had good milk cows and he covered them with big, good bulls. And he got a good crossbred calf and it topped the market every year. So we had milk cows we milked . . . the milk . . . we strained the milk. We sold cream. That was the way we literally survived. We sold cream once a week. That meant we got to go to town once a week too, when we had the cream. So we had five to ten gallon of cream every week. Now that was our mainstay, but our tobacco . . . back in those days, we were getting eight, ten cents a pound, and that didn't bring you much money, but we'd have five, six, seven acres of tobacco. We'd have about fifteen to eighteen acres of corn. And our payday in May, believe it or not, was sheep. We had two flocks of sheep and we really did feel that sheep was our savior because when we needed to pay off a note, when we needed to pay for something that we'd let drag along, when we sold those spring lambs, that's when we'd pay . . . pay the bill. But the rest of the . . . the rest of the diversification, we lived off of that. And so that's about the way we survived on that little diversified farm. We had three of them. We finally got together three farms. We managed two others, and this classified us, I guess, into a medium-size operation.

KLEE: Now one of the things on a diversified farm, and this is one of the things that I interview . . . I been interviewing a lot of different kinds of people and tobacco's such a mainstay today, it's hard to understand how we can do without it. But it sounds like, in the 1920's, it was not a very important part of the whole operation to begin with.

MASSIE: That's right. We had tobacco every year, and if we didn't make much money out of tobacco last year, what we'd do is increase, produce more next year. Now that's not a good theory to operate on, but that's the way we operated in the 20's and 30's. The tobacco was not a mainstay in . . . on our operation. It was part of our operation. And this is a thing that we have difficulty understanding today because the price of tobacco has been fairly good to us when we went on the government program back in the 40's. The price got up fairly good, and so we've become almost depending on it and nothing else. But back in those days, we could not depend on it because there were times when you would owe the warehousemen funds for selling your tobacco. And many a time during those periods, I have watched them operate and say, "well I'll pay you next year" or "I'll bring in some chickens" or "I'll bring you a ham" or something like that, just to pay for selling his tobacco because there's no money in it at all. And so . . .

KLEE: They didn't . . . they didn't even get enough . . .


KLEE: . . . pay the warehouse?

MASSIE: They did not get enough to pay the warehouse costs, that's right. And so we didn't depend on it that much. We . . . we really depended on that cream. We . . . course my mother saved eggs. We had a little . . . small flock of chickens, and she saved eggs and . . . oh, sheep. Oh, sheep. If it hadn't been for the sheep, we'd have been . . . in that day, in that era, sheep was important to us as tobacco is today.

KLEE: Was that mostly from the . . . the wool? Is that what people were using and . . .

MASSIE: No, lambs. Lambs were the big things. Those spring lambs that we sold and . . . and tremendous demand by the . . . by the people. They liked spring lambs. And we could sell spring lambs when we couldn't sell anything else.

KLEE: I see.

MASSIE: And so it was a real profit-making enterprise for us. Now wool helped, yes; but there was as much work or more on getting wool than the returns. But we had to get the wool off of the ewes, so we did shear them and took care of the wool and sold it, but the spring lambs was the big . . .

KLEE: That was a delicacy?

MASSIE: . . . that was a delicacy. Yeah, that's right.

KLEE: Another thing that I found too, is that with . . . with tobacco bringing on an increased importance, that the season's kind of gotten concentrated. Now when you were . . . when you were growing tobacco as a . . . as a youth with your father, didn't that stretch out an awful long period? Longer than it does today? For example, you know, selling and stripping might be early or later in the year than . . .

MASSIE: Very much so. But many times we would not get our crop prepared to go to the market until late January or February, because we had so many other things to do on the farm. Remember, I said we had fifteen, eighteen, twenty acres of corn. Well this meant that you had to cut the corn, shuck the corn, and then go back and . . . even in bad weather . . . and . . . and shuck that corn out and take it to the crib. And so that's a total different operation from what it is today. So we spread out the work load from . . . it seemed to me from daylight to dark, and from January one to December the thirty-first because there was always something to do on the farm.

KLEE: Um, hmm. So the . . . you just didn't have time to get out there and do everything? You had to get that corn in and that was all hand labor?

MASSIE: All hand labor. Everything was hand labor in those days because you had a . . . a disc harrow and a slide and a wagon and a rastus plow and two horses and a strong back and a weak mind. And that's the only way [chuckle] you could farm in those days.

KLEE: Well that . . . that's what I kind of wanna go into now a little bit is just ask you a few question and take me through a tobacco season in the 1920's maybe, and how the work was done maybe differently as . . . as a youth. For example, one of the first things you do is you have to prepare the beds.

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: Now, of course now we can spray and do this kind of things, but now what was preparing beds like then?

MASSIE: Preparing beds in those days was that you cut the wood to burn a bed in the fall of the year. And then along about March one to March fifteenth, sometime during March, you would . . . or any good day that you could find when the soil was dry enough, you'd go burn the tobacco beds. And this was anywhere from two to three days long, to get two or three beds burned. And you . . .

KLEE: What about selection of those beds at that time?

MASSIE: We didn't pay much attention to that in those days, and I really don't know why because it was very important. It was as important then as it is now. And . . . but we didn't pay that much attention. We'd plow the beds and have them near the field in which we were gonna grow it, and then we'd turn around and burn it. And there's a lot of . . . a lot of little silly things that we could have done better, but we didn't know about in those days.

KLEE: Now, burning the bed . . . the purpose of that is keep the weeds down, and .

MASSIE: That's right. That's right.

KLEE: . . . now what kind of . . . how did tobacco seed . . . it's an amazing . . .

MASSIE: Oh, we saved that from the year before, you see. We'd turn out . . . we would select . . . usually my dad would do this, but occasionally I could have some impact on what plants he saved and we would . . . we would save three, four, five plants and then we'd cut the seed head off, just before frost. Take them in and turn them upside down and hang them up in the crib and let them dry. And then sometime over the Christmas holidays usually, we'd take those seed heads and mash them out. Clean . . . blow it out, blow the chaff out and then we'd have seed. And I don't ever remember us pre-germinating those seeds. And if you look back into history, you'll find that many . . . nearly all of our beds were over-seeded. Put too many seeds on them. And our plants would be very poor at the time we got ready to transplant tobacco. But I don't ever remember us pre-germinating them to see whether we had seventy, eighty or ninety percent germination. And therefore, we had difficulty in judging how many seeds to put on a bed. But that was standard in those days. We did not have any seeds when . . . as a matter of fact, we didn't have any seedsmen, as we know them today, until about 1937. They produced one of our sixteen varieties in 1936 and then sold the seed in `37. Now I should preface that with we had some people that were saving their type of tobacco and selling it, such as Judy's Pride, Kelly's Barnett Special, all sorts of names that was used and these . . . these seed would be of a name that they saved the seed on the farm, and sold it. Now there was no certification. There was no identification. There was no official thing about this. It's just a man decided, hey, I'm gonna save a half acre of seed, and sell those seed next year, and that's what he did. But we saved out own. We never would buy those. We'd save our own.

KLEE: And was there any science to that? Would you . . . would you look at a plant and try to save your best plants, or . . .

MASSIE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. We made quite a science of that in selecting the type of plant that we wanted the following year. And we looked for uniformity, we looked for size. We looked for number of leaves per plant. We looked for how well those leaves filled out back on the internodes, you know, so we could get that yield. By . . . in those days, we were getting all of a thousand to eleven, twelve hundred pounds to the acre. And the only way we could increase our poundage was to make sure that our variety that we saved was the best that we knew how to select. So yes, we made quite a science out of that.

KLEE: Would neighbors exchange seed?

MASSIE: Seldom. Seldom. Sometimes, when . . . when you develop such a . . . a good type of tobacco, that's . . . that's how . . . that's how these fellas that I mentioned a minute ago . . . Barnett Special . . . that's how they got into the seed business because people looked at their crops and said, "Hey, you've got a pretty good crop. Let me buy some of your seed next year." And so that would happen. Now we never did attempt to do anything like that. I really don't know why because our crop was as good if not better than anybody else's and we could have done it, but we didn't try.

KLEE: Now one of the things about tobacco seed that the uninitiated, I guess, don't know is that there's a tremendous amount of seed in a . . . in a small amount. How do you . . . how do you get that . . . how did you-all use . . . how'd you get that uniformly spread? Did you mix it with ashes?

MASSIE: We mixed it with ashes, that's the way we got it out. Occasionally, we would just put dirt into the pan that we mixed up. But most of the time there's just plain old wood ashes that was left there on the bed after we burned it, and mix it up and get enough body in it so that we could get good distribution. So we had no problem there. Our problem was we always put too many seed on a bed.

KLEE: And it just . . . the plants would what? Choke themselves out?

MASSIE: Too thick. Very thick, yeah, and very small stem. And just did not have good liveability when we transferred them from the bed to the field. I remember this, when we transferred them out of the bed, we again had that strong back and weak mind because we waited until the season, until it rained. And then we took our fingers and made a hole, and put the plant in the hole and then pushed the dirt back to it. So you had to have a good plant if you were gonna get him growing because, first thing, you had compacted soil. Second thing, you could break that plant often when you were doing that because he's very fragile you see. You could break it. And third, you were compacting the soil all around because you had a lot of people in the field and the soil was still wet. So you . . . you had lots of difficulty in transferring the plants from the bed to the field.

KLEE: Yeah, those . . . those seed beds . . . and I wanna get into the setting here in a minute . . . but the seed beds themselves . . . there's more weeding involved I guess then?

MASSIE: Oh yes. Oh yes. We'd weed our beds two and three times because, remember, we did not have this clean mowing like we have today. We had lots of growth, lots of weeds. It was difficult to find any area that was clean. And if you have a million seed in a small area, and you kill ninety percent and you leave ten percent, you're still leaving a lot of weeds, and that's what we did in those days. We just simply could not . . . weeding the bed was one of the most difficult jobs I think I've ever had. In my early days, when I started in tobacco work, I had a young economist say to me, the first thing you wanna do when you get ready to weed a tobacco bed is to get into a comfortable position. I've looked for that position for all these many years, and I haven't found it yet, so it was difficult for me when I was on the farm, to weed a tobacco bed. And usually we'd do it three times.

KLEE: Well, that brings up the idea that this . . . quite a lot more labor at that time. Course you don't see anybody much doing that anymore it seems.

MASSIE: Seldom have to. Because we're so . . . we're so, I'd say, expert in using chemicals and in techniques that now are getting the job down for us. But we were not in those days. Surely we've improved a great deal.

KLEE: Talking about setting tobacco now, it's . . . again, it's kind of interesting. It sounds like, on your farm then, somebody might be, or you might . . . your family might still be engaged in farming in that area. And you might not have as much land in cultivation today as you, as you did then maybe.

MASSIE: No. That's right. We would not have. Not today. You see, tobacco, if we grew seven acres in those days, we'd be down to less than an acre today because of our yields and because of our [inaudible]. And because of our imports. So that's right, we'd have less. We'd have less corn because we wouldn't have the need for it. We cannot produce corn here in . . . in our belt as cheaply as they can back in the big corn belt. So you're almost forced to buy. Now back in those days, we couldn't have bought it because we didn't have the money. We didn't have any cash. And so we operated more on a barter system in those days than we did on a cash.

KLEE: Okay. Talking about . . . say you're ready to transplant now. Was that . . . pulling plants, course that . . . that's a labor intensive thing just to go out there and pull them.

MASSIE: You better believe it.

KLEE: How did . . . how did you get that tobacco field prepared? What'd you have to do to it?

MASSIE: Well I think that . . . I think that the majority of ways . . . now a minute ago we talked about setting tobacco on a season. And we did a lot of that, but I think more in those days, we used a hand jobber.

KLEE: You might have mentioned what season meant, but people who don't know. That . . . it had to rain?

MASSIE: That had to rain the night before and the soil had be in . . . just in the right condition before you could take plants and transfer them into the field. If it's too wet, then you ran into a lot of trouble, and if it's too dry, the plants wouldn't live. So you had to have the soil just right and that's what I say the majority of times, I think we used a hand jobber. Now, a hand jobber takes two people. One to handle it and one to drop a plant into it. And usually my job was to handle the jobber and then I'd have somebody, one of my brothers, dropping a plant in it and then mom and one of the little boys would be pulling plants at the bed. And my dad would be laying off and supervising and seeing that everything was going right. And so that's the way that we'd usually transplant tobacco in the spring of the year.

KLEE: Now when you're using one of those jobbers, that would punch the hole . . .

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: . . . and the plant would drop in the hole. Was there any water . . .

MASSIE: Oh yes.

KLEE: . . . the jobber had water attached . . .

MASSIE: That's right. Cause you had to have water. That's right. We had to have another man in the field carrying water to us.

KLEE: Keeping that thing filled up?

MASSIE: Keeping that thing filled up. It'd hold, I guess, maybe two gallon at most. And you would punch it into the ground and then you'd drop the plant in it and then I would squirt a little water on it through a . . . a trigger on my handles, and then I'd open the jaws up and lift it up and then drag my heel, dragging the dirt to the plant and move on to the next one. And that's . . . you could . . . oh, you could get pretty good at it. And we could move across that field in a hurry. But, boy, it's . . . it's hard work.

KLEE: I . . . it's . . . particularly when you're talking about five or six acres.

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: Seven acres.

MASSIE: That's right. You'd be setting tobacco for, oh, a good three weeks to a month anyway.

KLEE: Gee.

MASSIE: Yeah. Because you just didn't have the manpower to hurry it up and get it done any faster.

KLEE: Now when would . . . when would that start? What time of year would you start setting?

MASSIE: Whenever you could get those plants coming off, and usually would start the same time we do now, May twenty, may twenty-five, and then we'd set right on up 'til almost July one.

KLEE: So that . . . again, there's another example where it stretched out that season, cause then .

MASSIE: Today, what? Twenty acres? It takes us about three days?

KLEE: Yeah.

MASSIE: Back in those days, five acres we'd set for a month on it.

KLEE: That's right.

MASSIE: That's the speed. And that's the changes that has taken place over the years.

KLEE: Now your father would line it up. That means he would be setting the rows more or less?

MASSIE: That's right. He'd take . . . he'd take one of our horses that . . . old Mabel I call her . . . he'd take her with a . . . with a jump type plow . . .

KLEE: What's that mean?

MASSIE: . . . and lay it off. This is a plow that's just got one plate on it.

KLEE: I see.

MASSIE: And he'd send that plate down in the soil maybe six or seven inches and he'd roll up a furrow and that furrow is the one that we would set our tobacco on. And he'd take this and lay it off and he'd get the field laid off into rows that were, oh, thirty-eight to forty inches wide. And then we'd come along and put plants in that row every eighteen to twenty inches. Now remember, we'd put it up only the furrow and now down in the furrow that was made. Because the loose soil, you see, when we . . . when we send that plate through the soil, we would roll dirt up on a . . . up on a little ridge like, and we'd come along and set our plants on that furrow because we had more loose soil there than we would down in the furrow.

KLEE: Yeah, easier. And the plants, course, could . . . could work in that looser soil.

MASSIE: That's right. That's right.

KLEE: Now he just had to do that by sight?

MASSIE: Just by sight.

KLEE: He'd just set those rows in . . .

MASSIE: Just by sight.

KLEE: I've been told by other farmers that, you know, just lived in this time period about . . . that was kind of a source of pride for farmers, to have straight rows and . . .

MASSIE: Oh . . . well very much pride, as a matter of fact. They bragged on it. Go to . . . go to town on Saturday and talk about how . . . how good John's field looks down here because all the rows are just as straight as a bullet. And you could often hear that. And then they . . . back in those days, they were proud of uniformity, too. Getting . . . getting the field up and having uniformity in size.

KLEE: Oh, I see, each . . .

MASSIE: And that was another . . .

KLEE: . . . plant?

MASSIE: Yeah, each plant be of the same size. See, that was another bragging point too. We bragged a lot more in the old days than we do now. Course we don't have much time today to talk to each other. We're always on the go.

KLEE: Now when you were setting these with the jobber too, that was just by sight?

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: So you had . . .

MASSIE: That's right . . .

KLEE: . . . to just kind of fudge that eighteen to twenty inches?

MASSIE: That's right. You would . . . you would . . . fudge is a good work, I guess. Guess or . . . after you've done it awhile, you know to pick it up and put it down just ever . . . just almost . . . it's instinct more than it is anything else.

KLEE: Get the rhythm maybe.

MASSIE: It's a rhythm. It's rhythm that you develop into after a couple of rows. And you stay there in that position for a whole day, you see. You're bent over, you're stopped over because you're looking into the soil all day, and you can get a lot of tobacco put out. Yeah.

KLEE: I've been told, too, that sometimes farmers didn't . . . didn't take as much regard for erosion and some of those kind of things. Were they concerned that sometimes they . . . they just wanted those rows to be straight, and they'd go through valleys and sometimes it would wash or . . .

MASSIE: I . . . I suppose that's right on . . . on a lot of people's farms. That was never true on . . . on a place that we lived. And of course being a youngster and having all the work I had to do, I didn't have much time to look at what others were doing. But we were always concerned about erosion and we tried to follow the contour of the land. Now occasionally, and as I remember back, we would plow up diversion ditches that should have been left in grass. And that's a mistake that we made, but remember knowledge was not . . .

KLEE: That's not . . .

MASSIE: . . . very prolific in those days.

KLEE: But that showed a concern that we're trying . . .

MASSIE: Very much concern . . .

KLEE: . . . to divert that water.

MASSIE: Yeah, very much concern because we realized that if lost the soil . . . we didn't have much, remember. I'm from the hills. I . . . I didn't mention that. I got one leg shorter than the other one, so I'm from the hills and we were very much concerned about maintaining the soil and maintaining good fertility cause that was on our minds constantly.

KLEE: Now tell me about . . . the . . . the fields that you chose for tobacco, did you try to alternate the fields? Would you go back to the same field?

MASSIE: No, we'd alternate the fields. We only had about . . . oh, I'd guess seven or eight fields that we could use, and these were all the best fields on these farms that we had. And they were usually the bottom fields. Now occasionally we'd have to go up on the hill because in our rotation system, we would have . . . we wouldn't have enough land to do it. So occasionally we'd have to go up on the hill. But generally, we would rotate and we would stay in the very best land we had, and then the bottom land at that.

KLEE: Well that . . . that reveals a lot about, I think, tobacco in . That we only have a limited amount of property . . .

MASSIE: Right.

KLEE: . . . and . . . and you wanted to utilize that the best way you can.

MASSIE: Well you see, right now, we've . . . we're only occupying about two-tenths of one percent of our agricultural land. And even back in those days, the figure was often quoted that we've never used more than one percent of our agricultural land. And I'm talking about land that is capable of producing crops. I'm not talking about our forests and upland. I'm talking about the capability of producing crops. So tobacco has never occupied a large percentage of our agricultural land. It's always been very strong.

KLEE: After the . . . after the plant was out there in the field, now . . . a man that had several boys like yourself probably put hoes in your hand and had you working . . .

MASSIE: [chuckle] Well, my dad was always of the opinion that if he couldn't find you something to do, he'd have you go out here and pick up these rocks and throw them over the fence and then go back over, get them on the side, and throw them back on the other side. We always had grubbing to do. We had fields to clean up . . .

[End Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

KLEE: . . . side two of a tape with Ira Massie. You were talking about every . . . keeping busy. That you were kept busy.

MASSIE: That's right. There was always something to do but we would chop the weeds out of the tobacco. We hoed tobacco in those days, and as I look back over the . . . over the culture that . . . that I was taught on the farm, why we did that I don't know. Because we could see that tobacco really didn't need it, but the custom was, and we're great people to follow custom . . . the custom was to hoe that tobacco, to pull dirt to it, and my dad believed in that, so having four boys around, yes sir, that's one of the things that we'd have to do. About two to three weeks after that tobacco was out, we'd have to get out there with a hoe and chop all the weeds out of it and pull dirt to each plant. And we called that hoeing. And quite often, we'd get in the fields that . . . that had a lot of crabgrass in it and we'd just almost have to skin the ground to clean it up and pull the dirt into it. So there was a lot of work in growing it. That's right.

KLEE: Now, you-all used animals at that time.


KLEE: In your cultivation.


KLEE: After the plant was out, could you do . . . could you get in there with . . . with a horse?

MASSIE: Oh yes. We had two of them. We had two horses and they were just as careful as they could be not to step on a tobacco plant because they knew what would happen if they did. And they were just like a . . . a young boy. A young boys goes out and tears up something, he can expect to get a thrashing the next morning, and we always knew that that would take place. So we had to horses and a rastus plow . . .

KLEE: Now what's that? [inaudible]

MASSIE: A rastus plow was a two-plated plow in which the . . . the left plate would really go down deep and kindly stir up the soil. And well, we called it plowing it hard. And we would. We'd go in there and plow that tobacco. We had to . . . we had to in those days because our fields were so dirty weed-wise that we had to do a lot of plowing. And we'd plow three and four and five times. Just to keep the weeds down. And so we had two . . . two horses that was real good at that. And even I, as a young boy, could take these horses and they'd follow me just as would . . . just as good they would my dad.

KLEE: That wasn't as much from your skill as their skill.

MASSIE: That's right. They are the ones that had the skill. Now they were taught go slow, and give me time to guide that plow and put that plow where it needed . . . and on some people's farms they got so good . . . now I never did do this, but they got so good that they could weave in and out of those plants and literally plow between rows. If you're getting what I mean. If there's . . . every eighteen inches, he'd come in here and take that plate and just keep a running around like that and you weave enough that you plow between the row and so, as I say, we never did get that proficient but some people could do it.

KLEE: Now were you still on the farm when machinery was introduced?

MASSIE: No. [chuckle] No. See, I left the farm in 1939, and I was . . . when I had to sucker tobacco, and of course we didn't get that far along in our discussion . . .

KLEE: Yeah, I wanna go ahead and do [inaudible] . . .

MASSIE: . . . when I had to sucker tobacco, I was always tall . . . six foot four . . . and when I had to sucker tobacco on the bottom leaves, that nearly killed me. And along about 1938 . . . early in `39 when I decided there had to be something else in this world besides growing tobacco . . . so I . . . right at that time we were having a lot of problems worldwide, and I went to work in Georgetown for a short while, but I realized I needed to get out and see what was going on in the world, so would you believe as a nineteen year old, I joined the U.S. Marine Corps and I found out in a hurry what the world was like. [chuckle]

KLEE: Well I wanna get into that, but I wanna go back and talk about . . . the next job in the tobacco field would be the hand-suckering. [pause in tape?] Start right there, talking about the hand-suckering.

MASSIE: That hand-suckering, yeah. I can . . . I can . . . I can talk for a week about hand-suckering because that's the most difficult job that . . . that I remember on the farm because always being around six foot four, and we suckered tobacco three times every season, and along about 1938 or `39, I decided on the third time through the field that there had to be another way to make a living than growing tobacco. So I looked for it. But at any rate, we'd top the tobacco and I don't really remember what stage of bloom that we'd top it, but we'd top it, clean up the suckers that were in it, and then go back through it about two weeks later and get the suckers again and then two weeks to a month later, we'd go back in and hand-sucker it again, and then cut it just before they started growing again. The reason why we let the suckers grown is this produced, we thought, more leaf and produced a type of leaf that companies were buying.

KLEE: What were they looking for then?

MASSIE: Well, [chuckle] they were looking for . . . back in those days, more of what they are right today, but they wanted color in it. They wanted a good, long, high aroma, taste type of tobacco. They wanted it to be reasonably high in nicotine. They wanted a leaf that was solid and . . . they wanted it so that would grade maybe a C4F. I know a lot of people don't know what that is. Three . . . C3f . . . but this is a lug. It's the longest and it's the widest and it's got the most aroma in it. It's got the most taste in it of any . . . of any leaf on the . . . on the stalk.

KLEE: Now where does that come . . .

MASSIE: That comes about . . .

KLEE: . . . on . . . on the stalk order?

MASSIE: . . . about eight leaves up . . .

KLEE: I see.

MASSIE: . . . from the bottom. The first few leaves that we have on the bottom is called trash or plines and they're the oldest and they've been weather-beaten and they're just not solid. They're trashy. And then the next group of leaves is lugs. And back in those days, that's what they were buying. Don't really think they wanted it because, you know, after the war, they started going to low nicotine, low quality tobacco, and producing a lighter, thin smoke. Well, back in those days, we smoked Philip Morris and and [Camels] and Lucky Strikes. And that's all we had, about five brands. And so they did use real fine tobacco in those five brands.

KLEE: Now at that time . . . they were . . . they were buying . . . there was an American blend cigarette.

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: There wasn't very much of this tobacco going to plug and cigars and those kind of things.

MASSIE: More than you would think. Back in those days, cigars, particularly if they got it cheap enough, they would buy it and put it in their cigars. They put it in pipe tobacco. Big use in pipe tobacco because we were big pipe smokers back in those days because it was cheap. Now another thing where we lost out was in sack tobacco. Now, sack tobacco . . . roll your own.

KLEE: Okay.

MASSIE: Have you ever heard of that?

KLEE: Yeah.

MASSIE: Roll your own. Well back in those days, we called is sack tobacco, and buy a sack of Golden Grain or Run, Johnny, Run or Bull Durham and we boys could ride a horse and hold the reins in one hand while we rolled a cigarette in the other hand. Riding that horse at full gallop. And so you developed . . . we didn't have money to buy a ready-made pack of cigarettes, so we'd buy a nickel sack of tobacco, and that would last us for two weeks.

KLEE: And the papers? I guess you could . . .

MASSIE: And the . . . oh yeah, you had to have . . . have the papers, yeah, that'd go with it. But we didn't get much of our burley tobacco in that . . . in that type of cigarette. No, we didn't. We went cigar, pipe, cigarettes. Those were the three big users back in those days.

KLEE: Let me get you back in the field. We . . . we talked about splitting tobacco, which is different than they do today.

MASSIE: Surely is. And . . . totally different than it is today. But we . . . we would top it, of course, and sucker it, and we talked about that. And then we would have a knife made specially for splitting a stalk, and that knife usually was made out of a saw blade and they put a rod on it and then we'd have a handle on it. Just . . . just a piece of wood is all it was, but we called it a handle. And that knife, if you sharpened it properly, and got to knowing how to handle it, you start that blade in the top of that stalk, and it would follow that stalk right down as far as you wanted it to go, and then you'd pull it out and cut it off at the bottom. But if you got a knife that you couldn't handle very good, and it would slip out on you, and cut the stalk off, you were in a mess of trouble then, because there's no way that you can get it on a stick, see. So you had to develop a technique of knowing the type of blade that you were using so that you could get a good split on that stalk, and you'd want it right in the center from top to bottom. And then spread it over a stalk and take it to barn.

KLEE: There wasn't a problem when you stacked that on the wagon and so forth, with those plant falling off?

MASSIE: Oh, you'd lose a few, but not really. You handled it. You really handled it more careful in those days than you do now because you didn't want that tear in it, you didn't want a lot of trash, you didn't want a lot of . . . injure it, because they'd dock you. Remember we didn't have any grades. We didn't have any system to tell us how much we were gonna get. We had to have quality tobacco. And if you didn't have . . . handle it carefully, you wouldn't have that.

KLEE: Well since they weren't operating on acreage or poundage or anything like that, you-all had to be careful about every leaf, probably?

MASSIE: Every leaf. As a matter of fact, we threw away more tobacco in those days, [chuckle] than a lot of people would ever consider today because it just did not have the quality to take to market. And not only that, but we'd made as many as twelve or fifteen different grades, where we make maybe one, two, or three today. So it took us much longer in the stripping room to prepare a crop. And it had to be fixed up right; otherwise they wouldn't buy it.

KLEE: Well, now the reason you threw, maybe, some away is because you . . . that . . . they would kind of give you a price for the whole crop?

MASSIE: No, no, no, no. By each basket on its own. In the warehouse. Many of us criticize the warehouse today because they are operating almost identically to what they were operating around the turn of the century. And they've made no progress whatsoever and that's a shame. So the warehousemen operate the same, and a basket of tobacco would bring so much depending upon the bidders that you had bidding on that tobacco. No grade, no support. Nobody had anything to do with it except those buyers that's standing around that basket of tobacco. And they determined your price.

KLEE: I'll get back to that. I wanna talk about that curing-out process in the barn. You said that we . . . because the leaf . . . with that split stalk would sometimes cure out very quickly, you needed to use fire.

MASSIE: Not only that, it would cure . . . cure out more quickly than today's harvested tobacco, and it would come in case and rot faster than today's tobacco too, because it was so absorbent. So we had to be more critical in those days toward opening our barns and closing our barns or putting fires in our barn than we do today. Now I would first say that today we've had climatic condition changes. And so that has had a tremendous impact on it. I would say the second impact on us is that we're not as interested in the quality aspects today as we were in those days, so we're not as critical of that barn operation, and then thirdly, back in those days, our tobacco was so absorbent that it would come in case for long periods of time, and we'd get rotting that would take place in the barn called house burn, or pole rot. And therefore, we had to put some fires under that tobacco to drive out the moisture and to warm that barn down to keep it from further deteriorating. That's the way . . . reason why we used fires in the barn. Now if our tobacco was curing too fast, what we'd do is close up our barn. And not let that water get out. So it was a management tool, just like it is today, except it's different today, that we used back in the old days.

KLEE: Now that, those fires were fueled usually by coke?

MASSIE: By coke. Nearly always because coke was so much cheaper than anything else. And we . . . we'd usually run a ton of coke for an acre of tobacco. And back in those days, you could get it for ten, twelve, fifteen dollars a ton, and sometimes you'd get it even less than that if you'd take your truck and haul it. And it wasn't too expensive for you to start fires and burn them. Usually about a week's time is what you would want [inaudible].

KLEE: Well I guess that's another business then that kind of went by the wayside. These coke dealers .

MASSIE: Oh yeah. Yeah . . . well, they priced themselves out of the market and we had to quit . . . we had to quit using them. Now I think we're a little bit smarter today in varieties that we're growing and then the maturity that we have in going to the barn, and things of this nature, so we don't have to have as much coke today as we had in the old days. Maybe we didn't have to have it then, we just thought we did. We did a lot of things on custom.

KLEE: You did say that you think barn ventilation, when they build new barns, that's . . . that's an improvement too?

MASSIE: I think we've built much better barns today. I remember as a boy on the farm, about twelve years old, my dad got sick and we had a crew hired to build us a tobacco barn. Well, I fussed at this crew all the time about being sure that we got enough doors on ventilators so we could open and close it, and to position it in the right way so that we could get our air drainage from this barn. I didn't know what I was talking about, but I still fussed at them for getting these things because I knew if we didn't have it, we'd have to burn coke and I didn't wanna do that.

KLEE: Sure. When . . . when that tobacco was . . . was . . . well, I didn't ask you about putting it up in the barn. I was told that . . . again, farmers were much more careful. One person told me that maybe one person would hang at a time, and hang a rick. Is that . . . was that a custom you followed?

MASSIE: Not . . . not . . . not at our place, no. We'd put two or three . . . just about like we would today. We'd put two or three up in the barn. Now I would emphasize the fact that we were much more careful with that stick of tobacco then than we are now. Now we drag over rails and we drag it over feet and we drag it over dirt. We don't pay much attention to it. But back in those days, we sold only on quality aspect and we were as careful . . . we handled that tobacco just like you would a dozen eggs and so we'd put it in the barn very carefully. But we'd do it about the same way we do it today.

KLEE: Did they have the same amount of stalks . . . five, six, seven stalks on a stick?

MASSIE: Yeah. Yeah. Back in those days, we'd put a few more. Cause today you put five. Back in those days, we'd put six and seven, you see.

KLEE: Tobacco was a little smaller?

MASSIE: Yeah, much smaller. Right.

KLEE: When you were . . . time to get ready for market, that . . . that's called stripping of course, and you . . . you mentioned that you're stripping more grade at that time.

MASSIE: Oh yeah. Yeah. We'd make twelve, fifteen grades out of our crop. Sometimes we needed more because buyers would fuss . . . there was too much mixture in this, and they'd just walk on, you see. And you sold on the basis of a grade, and if it didn't fit their grade, if it didn't fit 's or Lucky Strikes or , if it didn't fit their grades, they wouldn't buy it. They'd just walk on by.

KLEE: Now at that time, did they have these titles, these names of grades? Or did they . . .


KLEE: . . . call it, you know . . .

MASSIE: No, no.

KLEE: . . . just trash?

MASSIE: Now we called it . . . the first grade was spodge. [spelling]

KLEE: Never heard that term.

MASSIE: I know it. That's a . . . not many people have ever heard that, but back in the 20's and 30's, that what we called the first grade. On the bottom, was spodge. And then we called the second grade, cutters. And then we called the rest of the leaves, leaf. And of course that leaf, you could break that down into red and green and tan and all sorts of grades . . . all sorts of . . .

KLEE: Colors.

MASSIE: . . . lengths and colors you see, but those are the grades . . . the terminology that we used in the stripping room. Course you have first, second and third spodge. You have first, second, and third and fourth of cutters.

KLEE: And that's referring mostly to what? Length?

MASSIE: Length and color and body and . . . all sorts of classifications that you could think of a tobacco leaf, we'd have it. There would be . . . some leaves, they have a little green spot on it. Well, you hate to throw that away, and so you put that over here for this grade. Another leaf would be big and long and broad and have all the color in it that you'd want, and you'd put that in this grade. Then if you found one a little shorter, a little bit lacking in uniformity of color, you'd put that in this grade. So you'd critically separate each one of the groups that we have on the plant.

KLEE: So that's where all these twelve, fifteen different grades . . .

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: . . . [inaudible]

MASSIE: That's right. That's right. See, you . . .

KLEE: You put those in separate baskets?

MASSIE: Oh yes.

KLEE: [inaudible]

MASSIE: Oh yes. Yes, each one of them on a separate basket, yeah.

KLEE: [inaudible]


KLEE: Again, that kind of emphasizes this whole stretching out process. Like if you . . . if you put the thing in the field, I guess between May twentieth and maybe July the first, then you're out in the field cutting that tobacco I guess the end of August through September.

MASSIE: Through September, yes. of times, you'd get it in the night before it frosted, yeah, sure.

KLEE: So, that was more of a concern than it is today?

MASSIE: Everything was drawn out. It fell into place. You had your corn to do. You had your sheep to take care of. You had your cows to milk and all . . . hay to put up. So tobacco got its turn . . . it didn't get the predominant care that you're giving it today because tobacco get's first today, see.

KLEE: I see.

MASSIE: That was not true in our operation. We had all these things, and tobacco took its turn, just like everything else. And there was a lot of work to it. We've already mentioned that normally you consider an average of three hundred man-hours per acre. I'm convinced we put four hundred in it, in those days.

KLEE: Sure.

MASSIE: And I believe today, we're putting two hundred in it. So it's just about double the amount of work in the old days as it is today.

KLEE: Now, would you take . . . how did . . . how did you-all handle that on your farm? Did you take most of your tobacco to market at the same time?

MASSIE: Yes, we did. Yes. We were so far, see, we were about thirty miles from . We were so far away and you didn't worry about people stealing things in those days because a man . . . oh, you'd have a bad character or two around in the community, but everybody watched out for them, you see, and let you know if they were coming around. So we didn't worry about things like that. We didn't worry about fire because we didn't smoke or . . . we . . . we were not careless, so we would . . . slowly but surely get our tobacco stripped. And when we got it all stripped, my dad would say, "well, looks like the market is good now," and he'd take it to market and . . . and sell it.

KLEE: Did the market vary a lot during the season?

MASSIE: Oh, Lord, yeah. It varied a lot. You never knew what you were gonna get and back in those days, you . . . you couldn't get unloaded maybe for a week. You'd have to . . . you'd have to bunk out in some bunkhouse in Lexington and have your team out there on the street for maybe up to a week's time before you could get unloaded.

KLEE: Gee.

MASSIE: But I don't know why. It . . . drives me up a wall when I think about it, because it should not have been.

KLEE: All that wasted time. [chuckle]

MASSIE: Yeah, all that wasted time, lawsy, yeah. It was just carelessness on our part that we didn't change those things. But, custom again. It was a great thing back in those days. Even today, we're still living on custom.

KLEE: Yeah, you couldn't . . . then, you couldn't really predict whether you wanted to be on the first market . . .


KLEE: . . . or the middle market . . .


KLEE: . . . or anything like that?


KLEE: Just took your chances?

MASSIE: You . . . you had to rely on your warehousemen a great deal. Much more than you do today. And he . . . if he was a friend of yours, he would do the best he could, which wasn't much, but he'd do the best he could. But they just slowly but surely unloaded them, and again, the warehouse was kind of like the grower. They graded it again, and they made sure that every stick and every pile was just so-so, and so they might work a day on one man's crop.

KLEE: Putting it in those baskets?

MASSIE: Putting it in those baskets and getting it lined up right because they knew all the rest of these sitting out here on the street would still be there, and so they'd get back to them later on.

KLEE: Well, it sounds like . . . there's a lot more art kind of involved. Art in stripping tobacco. Art in . . . in preparing those baskets and hand-tying that, and . . .

MASSIE: We have often . . . I have referred, over my life, I guess, many, many time . . . tobacco is almost more art than it is a science. Because we've been at it so long. We started, what? Eighteen sixty-four up here in . . . in someplace around here in ? And we started in 1864. We've been at it a long time. We have a tremendous custom built up. We did it this way fifty years ago and let's do it again. So it is literally more an art than it is a science. On that . . . on the warehouse floor, now . . . well, even before you got to the warehouse, by this time, there wasn't much pin hooking going on, was there?

MASSIE: Oh yes.

KLEE: Was it?

MASSIE: That was the big . . . that was the big day for the pin hooker. Now, and I'm really telling you more than I really should right now, because remember I was a youngster on the farm.

KLEE: Yes, sir.

MASSIE: And my job was to milk cows and take care of the sheep and do things like that, while my dad took the tobacco to market.

KLEE: Oh, I see.

MASSIE: And so I didn't get to go to market that much. Occasionally, if he got unloaded and come back home and then would go back to the market, I'd go with him. But most of the time, I was back home because there was so much work to do, and then in school and . . .

KLEE: Well tell me, anyway. I . . . I've talked to some other people, but what . . . from what . . . from what you could recollect of your father, did they try to catch people while they're in line to be unloaded, to try to offer them a price for their crop?

MASSIE: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Not only that, they'd come to your barn. They . . . they'd start . . . a good pin hooker would start when you'd put that tobacco in the barn. And he'd come, wanna know what you had, what you wanted for it. Then he'd come back at your stripping, and then he would catch you on the street in and look at you. Your reputation, there, more than anything else. If you had a reputation for a good tobacco crop, he'd come to you. And then, on the warehouse floor, once you put it on the warehouse floor, he'd come to you. So the pin hooker, during the 20's and 20's and I would say during the 40's, was ever-present. Now remember this, we're talking about the pin hooker and I . . . I would guess that some people would classify him in a derogatory way. I won't. Because we've got pinhookers today but we call them dealers. See, we got a different . . . got a different term for them today. You got a pin hooker right down here in Maysville, Alec [Alex] Parker, Parker Tobacco Company. He does . . . he's doing the same thing today except on a more scientific scale, on a much larger scale, on a . . . on a much more knowledgeable scale than the pin hooker did in the 20's and 30's cause he was an individual, had very little money to back him. He really didn't know tobacco that well. He didn't know what the companies wanted that well, and so he was buying based on what he thought he could do. Now, Mr. Parker today is buying on based on what he knows he can do, see. So you classify the two nearly together, but the science and the knowledge today is much greater than it was back in those days.

KLEE: But a pin hooker . . . course a pin hooker could lose in this speculation too?


KLEE: The farmer might come out ahead.

MASSIE: Yeah, well Mr. Parker can lose, too. And he did lose last year, you see. So that . . . that's exactly right. If you were a smart trader, you could hook that pin hooker quite often and you could take him to the cleaners. But usually he was one step ahead of you, and he'd know what he was doing, and he would come out on top.

KLEE: The . . . did . . . did a lot . . . were there very many people that traded with the pin hooker? I guess there would be some farmers that probably just needed the money. If he would give them money up front . . .

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: . . . without having to haul it . . .

MASSIE: Yes . . .

KLEE: . . . [inaudible] dealing.

MASSIE: Yes, quite a few people traded with . . . with these dealers in tobacco. I'm gonna call them dealers instead of pinhookers because pin hooker has a connotation about it that . . . that is not good, and they were reputable people. They just took advantage of you if you didn't know your business. And there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with at all. But back in those days, they . . . they operated on all markets and all counties and even . . . even people that . . . that were in warehouses themselves would do that. They'd do that today. They buy tobacco today and resell it. So it . . . it's a . . . let's go back again. Tobacco's old. It's got a lot of custom about it, and we're doing practically the same thing today, just in a little more knowledgeable way.

KLEE: Better terms.

MASSIE: Better terms, that's right. That's right.

KLEE: What about the relationship between the farmer and the warehouser? And of course that's . . . the farmer can choose the warehouse-, warehouseman.


KLEE: How did . . . how did your family choose which warehouse they'd deal with?

MASSIE: My family chose the warehouse based on what they thought was the best warehouse and would give them the best deal. Now, that's not true with . . . with a large number of our people. Unfortunately, you . . . you . . . and it's difficult to explain this. We had people that would take advantage of farmers, give them half a pint of whiskey or a pint of whiskey or give them a hotdog and . . . and get them in, get them unloaded, and then not give them the best deal that they could get. That happened often. I think that brought on the . . . brought on the government grading. I think it brought on the more knowledgeable things that we're doing today and we have been doing since the 40's. I think things like that brought that on. That was most unfortunate, that we had that era to live with. But so did the coal people and so did the horse people and so did everybody else. We just didn't develop the technology as fast as we should.

KLEE: What about the far-, the buyer? Did you ever get to know any of the buyers or try to . . .

MASSIE: No, no. I did not. But even today, just today, three times already today, I've had farmers chastise critically the tobacco buyers. Now . . . and I'm convinced that they remember what the buyers did to them in the 20's and 30's. When you take your tobacco to market and you owe the warehouseman extra funds over and above what your tobacco brought, then you've got to be mad at somebody. He's not mad at the warehouseman cause he's his friend, you see. So the next guy is the buyer.

KLEE: He's often a stranger and . . .

MASSIE: He's a stranger. He get to use the tobacco. He's making a big profit on me. He's driving that big black Cadillac out there with the chauffeur, and we see those things, and he's mad at them. And even today, we still have that animosity.

KLEE: You think that's a carryover?

MASSIE: I think it's a carryover. It's gotta be a carryover cause manufacturers are . . . are doing everything that they can to give us a fair shake. Now, sure, they're gonna make money because they're a big corporate structure. But I really believe that they're on the farmer's side today. Now maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm just hardheaded. But I believe that they are very helpful to us today, whereas back in the old days, it was a buy-it-if-you-want-it, leave-it-there-if-you-don't-want-it, and they had control. And they took advantage of it.

[End Tape #1, Side #1]

[Begin Tape #1, Side #2]

KLEE: . . . of an interview with Ira Massie, conducted at Maysville Community College on July 17, and we were just finishing up talking about the buyers and how there's this . . . this leftover animosity about buyers. I wanted to . . . to pick up a little bit more. We're talking more about your youth now, and your early training. That's where I wanna go back to. I wanna ask you a few questions about other related areas. For example, your education, did you go to school there in the Scott County Schools?

MASSIE: Yes I did. I went to school to one teacher. I think there was twenty-three of us in eight grades called the Risk, R-i-s-k, Little Red Brick Schoolhouse. As a matter of fact, I have an eighth grade diploma signed by the teacher and the superintendent of schools. And course you . . . you don't find many of those around today, and I still have that diploma. And then . . . that was in 1935 when I finished. That fall is when we started the bus system, 1935. And they transported me by bus to Stamping Ground, school and so I finished four years there at Stamping Ground, `35 through `39.

KLEE: Now as you said, you formed some conclusions out there in the field, suckering tobacco. Everyone knows you today and knows your career, a little bit about it I suppose . . . during those school years, could you envision what was coming?

MASSIE: No. No, not in the slightest. Not in the slightest. At the school, we had . . . we had all of four subjects that we could select. Of course agriculture was one of them. Well, I did not determine that I wanted to be an agriculturalist, really, until I got back from the service. And I talked with . . . with my friend, Ivan Jett, who is an outstanding agriculture teacher and citizen of and I went in and chatted with him and . . .

KLEE: Now where was he at? Here . . .

MASSIE: Oh, he was . . . at that time, he was executive secretary of the . . . of the grocery association in . But he's been an outstanding citizen of . And I went in and chatted with him and we talked about our alternatives and then's when I made the decision that I wanted to go into agriculture. But prior to that time, as I left high school, I worked for a while in retail, and then I went in the Marine Corps, and I was just a young . . . young guy just like everybody else. Had no idea what I wanted to or when I wanted to do it.

KLEE: During that . . . during your education there in , that's such an issue today, and I kind of wanted to just get a little bit of your feeling. What . . . how do you feel about that education?

MASSIE: I'm very biased. I'm very biased. Even though I only had a choice of four subjects, I think I had one of the best educations that was possible to get in those times because I had loyalty, I had confidence, I had confidence in my teachers. Sure, they were not as sharp as some of the teachers today, but I think we have gone completely, unequivocally overboard toward combining and this disturbs me and it always has, and I've been P.T.A. and I fought against that because when you put three thousand kids . . . my . . . [cough] my kids graduated . . . a senior class of three thousand kids. Why there's not a single teacher that knew them, they never had a chance to play bas-, I thought I ran the school when I was in school. I thought I had complete control. I had . . . why, I had more confidence than all of my kids put together because it was a small enough school, I could get involved. I was in plays. I played basketball. I helped the principal of the school. I played baseball. I played everything that there was in it, and got enough of education to survive and get by in this world and I don't see any reason for us combining and making three thousand-pupil classes. That's unbelievable to me.

KLEE: If you'll allow me, it's interesting . . . I . . . I've done some interviews with one of the black citizens here in the . . . in the town, and he said, you know, as much as integration's a positive thing, he said one negative thing was when we were in the black schools, we held all the leadership positions. We played on the teams and we were student council presidents. When we were thrown in with everybody else, then we're just a face in the crowd.

MASSIE: Yeah. They were nothing.

KLEE: I think that's an interesting point that people miss, that in the smaller schools, everybody had a chance and had leadership kind of things.

MASSIE: That's right. I don't know what . . . I don't really know what would have happened to me if I had not had that opportunity in high school, because I developed that leadership there that . . . that . . .

KLEE: [inaudible]

MASSIE: . . . no way my kids could have gotten any of it. Now they may have gotten a better book learning. They may have gotten more data and maybe . . . I'm sure they had better teachers, but I'll tell you, they didn't enjoy their school as much as I did mine.

KLEE: Are there any individuals that stand out in your mind there as kind of a . . . providing some inspiration? Coaches or teachers or principals that you'd like to mention?

MASSIE: Oh . . . see, only had four.

KLEE: Oh, I see.

MASSIE: But I'd have to mention one man. This man was the principal of our school. His name was Joe Sabel, S-a-b-e-l. He's now deceased. He was a man that . . . that stood, I guess about five foot eight. He weighed a hundred and thirty-five pounds. And I'm telling you, I was always big, six foot four, and we had twenty-five or thirty other guys just like me, but I'll tell you what, when he come down the hall, you better . . . you better see twenty-five or thirty guys making light and getting out of the way because he had more authority. There's no question in my mind but what he ran that school in a dictatorial way but yet we, as students, could have our way and could have our say and be a part of the leadership and be a part of the school. But he was boss, and he left no doubt about that.

KLEE: Talking about your height, I guess you were quite a prospect for the basketball and so forth?

MASSIE: Oh, I like to think so, but I didn't have the coach, you see. I needed . . . I needed a coach. The coach was the math teacher and he took on coaching just as a sideline. He knew nothing about coaching. That . . . that's the difference you see. If I had had a good coach, maybe . . . maybe I would have developed somewhat because I was three, four inches taller than most people were in those days. But he didn't even know how to run a play and he didn't know . . . I don't ever remember him teaching me one thing in basketball while I was in school.

KLEE: But you did play?

MASSIE: But I did play, yeah. Played four years on the A team.

KLEE: Let me ask you about . . . as you were growing . . . again, in this . . . in this time period between your birth and before you went to the Marine Corps, what about . . . what was . . . course you worked long days.

MASSIE: Yes, sir.

KLEE: Was there any entertainment or . . . what about social kinds of things that young people did and . . .

MASSIE: Oh, had it all. What about social things? My goodness, I got to go to town on Saturday. That was great. Could sit in the car and watch people go up and down the street on Saturday night. We had plays in school, see. We'd have a play twice a year, and I'd get involved with that. Then we had basketball games and they . . . they were twice a week. And you had practice twice a week. Oh, what else would I do? There just seemed to be something constantly going on, which I was a part. And my kids never were in a play, never played football, never played basketball, never did anything outside of just taking their four or five courses.

KLEE: [inaudible]

MASSIE: And that's what I object to.

KLEE: Yeah, three thousand kids . . . there's gonna be ten on the basketball team.

MASSIE: That's right.

KLEE: That does make [inaudible] . . .

MASSIE: So we had social activity . . . course don't forget dates. We had dates and usually two or three, four of us would team up to go to a dance at or have a . . . have some activity in . It was different in those days than what it is today, but there was plenty of activities for us to keep us out of mischief . . .

KLEE: Now when you . . . when you met your . . . your wife, was that in this time period?

MASSIE: No. No, it was not. I met a lot of fine gals, I . . . I realize that, but I always had in . . . a vision of greater things, and I wanted to get out and I wanted to get away and I wanted to see what the world was like. I don't why I always felt that way, but I did, and so I married my wife, really after I got out of school. After I got out of college, after the Marine Corps. And I spent seven years in the Marine Corps, and three years in college and a year or two bumming around. I was thirty-two, thirty-three years old before I married.

KLEE: Well let . . . let . . . let me bring this . . . go to that point then . . . you graduated from school there in and then joined the Marine Corps . . .

MASSIE: I . . .

KLEE: . . . to get away from . . .

MASSIE: . . . about eight months later, I joined the Marine Corps. Again, as I say, I had this vision out there that there was something over the hill, and I wanted to see what it was. I . . . I made . . . I went to work in . I worked for a hardware store, and I put in ten hours a day, six days a week, and drew seventy-five dollars a month. Well, this didn't leave any money for me to see what was on the other side of that world out there, you see, and so I figured there had to be some way for me to do it. And we're walking down the street in Georgetown one day, a news editor, newspaper writer and myself, and it said, the sign pointed out "we need a few good men" [chuckles] and that . . . that . . . that took it. We agreed to . . . Monday morning we'd go up the post office and see what . . . what the guy said. Oh yeah, he'll take us because we were both big strapping young men, you know. "We'll take you guys right away." Sent us to to go in and he either faked . . . and I always will believe he faked . . . color blindness, and what they did with him, they sent him back home. But where'd they send me? . But I still thought I had the world by the tail until I got into . And then's when the world come falling down for me.

KLEE: [chuckle] That's funny. Now how . . . what kind of experience . . . course the world was in a . . . starting to be in a turmoil at that time . . .

MASSIE: Very much.

KLEE: You know, the services were gearing up. What was that like in the Marine Corps?

MASSIE: It . . . it's really hard to . . . as I think back over it, it's difficult to describe what happened. You see, here's a young boy, had never been out of the community, really. Nineteen years old. No money. No experiences. And they slapped me in with sixty-six other people gathered from to . That's all they'd take in for that . . . that . . . for that company. And we got into , and they had me in a roomette on a train, and boy, I thought they were gonna really treat me great. And they dumped me in Paris Island, along with sixty-five others and the first thing they did is . . . the drill instructor was standing there and when he said, "I'm your mother, I'm your life, I'm your eyes, I'm your nose, and you better believe it, and if you don't we'll show you how in a few minutes," and they put us aboard a dump truck to take us into camp and my first meal in the Marine Corps was beans and cornbread. And I'd just left that. I didn't want anymore of that. But I had signed up for four years, and that's what they put me down to, was beans and cornbread, and I looked at that about three times and said, oh boy, you're in it. You better make the best of it. And so from that point on, I decided that I was gonna be a good Marine. And I jumped into those beans and cornbread just like I'd never . . .

KLEE: [inaudible]

MASSIE: . . . [inaudible] them in my life, yeah. [chuckles] It's a total . . . it was a . . . it was a complete reversal of what I thought it was gonna be like. It was just more of the hard work that I'd left on the farm. Much . . . ten times harder because they said, "we need a few good men" and they admit, even today, that they're going to get rid of ten or fifteen percent because they can't take the work. Another ten percent will fall out because of physical condition, and I've heard the commanding general of say, "If you gentlemen can tell me how we can get a . . . get rid of fifteen percent more of them, I'd like to know it. If you keep it legal." Well, we like to . . . we like to phase out about forty percent of what we sign up. For that way, we can keep a good, viable Corps.

KLEE: What was your service like during the war years?

MASSIE: Well, I went through all of it, of course. I was on . . . I was in . I had just finished aerial photography school. I went into photography in the Marine Corps, and I was in Quantico and I wish I had made a movie of the sergeant major calling the squadron out on the tarmac at four o'clock in the afternoon and how he was in full dress, with sword mind you, and pulling that sword and throwing that sword in the air and pulling it back down the ground . . . [cough] it was most demonstrative and then declaring, "We're at war. Conduct yourself accordingly." That's all he said. And seven days later, we were on a train, bag and baggage headed to , and we arrived in fourteen days after war broke out. That's December the seventh. On December twenty-first we arrived in . . . North Island, . So from then on, it was in the South Pacific for me.

KLEE: Yeah, you spent your service in . . .

MASSIE: All . . . all my time in . . . either training aerial photographers in , or in the South Pacific myself. We had two big squadrons, BMD Squadrons. One of them was 254, and the other was 253, and I belonged to 254. Well, 253 got early call, and then we relieved them on station, and we were just ready to go back in the South Pacific when war ceased. So I had all of my experiences in the South Pacific.

KLEE: You said you served seven years in the Marines?

MASSIE: Little less than seven years, yeah.

KLEE: Well that . . . that sounds like . . . did you re-up or . . .

MASSIE: [chuckle] Yeah. Well, I finished four years of . . . of service. I refused OCS [] school. If I had gone on and taken OCS school, and become a . . .

KLEE: And change your career . . .

MASSIE: . . . lieutenant, you see, I could have gotten out within a day after the war was over. But I didn't wanna do that. I wanted to be an aerial photographer because I really enjoyed that. The challenge is tremendous to be an aerial photographer. Still is today. I really wanted to do that, and so I refused OCS school. I was in the South Pacific on one of the islands when my four years was up, and it looked like it was going to go for another four or five years anyway, so I extended for two years cause it meant a lot of money. I think, four or five hundred dollars for extending two years. And I extended and war was over within six months. So I had a year and a half to go in my sign-up, and then just before I was discharged, I had an automobile wreck and my . . . left side of my face is all plastic surgery. And then when I went up for service discharge, they found a spot on my lung, so all in all, I spent an extra year taking care of a physical problem that I had in San Diego.

KLEE: Now, during that time period, was that when you're deciding, that, well, I'm gonna . . . when I get out, I'm going back to school?

MASSIE: No, no. When I got out, I told them my home base would be in Georgetown, Kentucky and I returned to Georgetown and during a . . . during about a month's time in there, I decided that I'm either gonna be a farmer or I'm gonna go into retail outlet or I'm gonna travel or I'm gonna go back to school. And it seemed to me that I needed a whole lot more education. So I went back to school and took general agriculture.

KLEE: You took general agriculture at . . .


KLEE: . . . .

MASSIE: I spent four years . . . well, three years, because I went through an accelerated rate, and then got a master's degree in agronomy and soon after, I . . . soon after I got out of school, I went into the certified seed program and worked there for a while and then decided I'd like to be a county agent. And so I moved up here with Bert Collins here in Maysville, and was a county agent with Bert for about six months, and they called me back in the state office.

[End Tape #2, Side #1]

[End of Interview]