13 May 2011

Saving Voices

Saving Voices
Compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
May 2011

Cassette tapes became the rage in the 1960’s.  In 1966 music cassettes were introduced to those of us "want to be" flower children, hippies and the world at large. 

By 1969 I was working at the University of Kentucky Language Laboratory  with what seemed to be miles of reel to reel, humidity controlled tapes playing to booths for students in many languages.  Some of the reels were converted to cassettes for student use and one of my jobs was transcribing materials.

It became a habit for me to carry a tape recorder when possible when pursuing genealogical and historical data.  Today it is imperative that those old tapes be transferred to new media just like we have moved our 8mm movies from VHS to DVD. Today I carry a digital recorder no bigger than the palm of my hand in my purse.

Because of tinkering with the “new” technology, this past Christmas I presented my daughter-in-law with a voice recording of her husband when he was 3 months old.  Ok, no, he could not talk but I could listen to those coo’s forever. Converted from cassette tape to a digital .wav file I can listen to my "baby" any time I sit here at the computer.  Another treasure is a very short description by my mother [now with Alzheimers] describing my grandmother’s heartbreak at the loss of her Baby Grand Piano in the 1937 flood in Portsmouth, Ohio.  

One tape is the Klaiber family at the Klaiber farm, Long Branch Road, Big Garner, Boyd County, Kentucky the summer of 1978.  The tape has deteriorated in several places but a large percentage has been salvaged and converted to .wav format for future generations. 

The background sounds are as much a joy to this writer as is the history my in-laws were sharing.  The background is full of giggles and laughs of my then seven, five and three year old sons.  We had traveled from New Jersey back “home.” For Kentucky is home no matter where we are.  The boys were growing up in urban New Jersey and we did not want them to miss the experience and love we have of our family and Kentucky.

Today, I sit writing in a newer house, looking out at the old house where this tape was recorded and feeling the presence of those wonderful people who are laid to rest on this land that they loved.  How wonderful to hear their voices yet again. 

I have taken the liberty of transcribing, extracting and annotating entries for my readers that I think are a window into life in my part of Eastern Kentucky.  My comments are in brackets.

John Henry Powell Sexton Klaiber: …If I was out there plowing and break a plow he [JH’s father James Mathew Klaiber, a blacksmith] never said nothing about it, went to the shop and fixed it. For I’ve seen him break a few of them.  See back then you had stumps in the field. The first thing you know, why, you’d hang your plow on that stump and before you could stop your team you would have it broke. I’d rather go right out there and work a team as a tractor in the field.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: Why? Does it do a better job?

John Henry Klaiber: Well you don’t get as much done but you get the pleasure of following em. You can plow the ground with a team and you can see what you is turning over and walk along behind them there and more work. Course you can’t get nothing done anymore. When you get out there and plow with a tractor all you see is the front of you; you don’t see nothing your turning up.  That’s why they don’t find, people farming, don’t find any arrow heads or things like that anymore. Get up there on a tractor you not going to see them.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: You had a whole collection of arrow heads once didn’t you?

John Henry Klaiber: I guess the last one found around here you [talking to son James David Klaiber] found it over there one day was in pretty good shape.

James David Klaiber: Where is it at now?

John Henry Klaiber: I don’t know. I think you had it last time I seen it.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: I don’t think Ian [John Ian Klaiber, grandson of John Henry Klaiber] has ever seen one. Daddy [John Geer Martin, DVM] used to come home with them when he would make a call once in awhile.

John Henry Klaiber [as family looks in hutch]. Rattle snake rattlers in there…

John Henry Klaiber: …Get up Bolts Fork… There at Bill Queen’s.  You went in there to Slick Rock School House. Down in the creek and on up the creek bed until you got up to where Elmer Bowling lived. I went along in the truck that way. 

Teresa Martin Klaiber: Up the creek?  …You mean they would follow the creek all the way up from the Mouth of Garner all the way in here before there was a road?

John Henry Klaiber: I guess so. That is what dad said when he came in here. I don’t know if it was from the mouth of Garner or the mouth of Jack or what.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: But there was no road up here?

John Henry Klaiber: Well right up here in front of Mead’s you went down in the creek there and over around that old Beech Tree.  You know where that old Beech Tree is there. Come around the creek and out in front of Cline’s [Stewart] house and up in the creek behind Bill Bradley’s trailer, there, and on up and come out of the creek above Ray Tolliver’s and then around the hill.  

You know where the old house [Sexton] was over here at the Boys Farm, the one that is burnt down. You come around the hill there. Of course when you come off the main road you went down the bank and down into the creek and come around and up the creek a piece and come out in that bottom. You would come up to the old house and went straight down and across the bottom and back in the creek and from there on up the hollow… Earl’s [Sexton] dad [William Vincent Sexton], his old wagon tires in dry weather would get loose from the rim. They’d take and put them in water and soak them up. He put his wagon wheels over there in the creek ... one day, and Carl Ross down here started to take the girls home one night in the buggy and went down there and his horse got tangled up. Carl told me about that about half a dozen times. Imagine a horse stepping in wagon wheels down there in the creek…

Terri, I guess I was in the sixth grade [about 1922] I walked off the hill here and worked for an old man all summer. Hoed corn, pitched hay. Well it wasn’t exactly all summer but off and on. And he gave me fifty cents a day and I had to have a lantern to get over there and I had to have a lantern to get back.  Dark when I went over and dark when I came back.  When school started I told him I wouldn’t be back. Said I’d go up to the house to be paid. Well we started up through the barn yard and he had a pair of yearling calves that he had broke to work. He said I’ll give you them calves and square off with you. I said I’ll have to have a yoke. He said I’ll let you have the yoke to take them home with. And I said no, when the yoke goes over there it’s not coming back. It’s mine when I leave here with it.  He said “I can’t let you have my yoke.” Why I said give me the money. I knew he wouldn’t turn loose of the money.  He gave me the calves and the yoke.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: Is that the yoke that is out in the shed?

John Henry Klaiber: uhah [no]. I don’t know I brought them home.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: His daddy made that one in the shed.

John Henry Klaiber:  Come home from school one day and dad gave me a fifty dollar bill. He had sold my calves.  That is what I got for a summer’s work.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: That’s not bad.

Elsie Rucker Klaiber: Thought he was rich.

John Henry Klaiber: That fifty dollar bill looked like it was bigger than that wall. And then I never seen a fifty dollar bill again til I was working at the store. I delivered a bunch of stuff over here to Millard Prichard. Well he was the one that bought my calves. Millard was. And he came out there and paid me for the order. He gave me a fifty dollar bill.  He said “Here I am going to give you another one.” [JH chuckling.]…I’ve never seen one since that one. See you didn’t see big money then and pretty much of any kind.  But this old man over there he wouldn’t spend a dime. He kept every dime he got ahold of. He had a big ole yarn sock and had it half full of dimes…If anything was ten cents he would give them two nickels or a quarter. He wouldn’t spend a dime. He kept them dimes.

Teresa Martin Klaiber:  Well the yoke out in the barn, your daddy made that Elsie said? Will it rot out there?

John Henry Klaiber: No. It really ought to have been painted.  It’s still over there. Ain’t got no bow.

Teresa Martin Klaiber: What do you mean it ought to be painted? Treated some way so it won’t rot?

John Henry Klaiber: Well keep it some better. But it is sun cracked. It’s made out of small timber.
 With rattle snake rattles tucked in the hutch, yokes safely hung and protected  and voices of long ago children giggling and making their own memories of their grandparents, the warmth of  voices past envelopes me. Please join me again for Part 2 of Saving Voices in my next post.  In future posts you will find out about leather britches, kraut and German lessons.  Until then think about saving the voices in your life.


  1. Thank you Teresa. Posting such has enriched my life. I can just hear Uncle John telling all about that. Wish I would have listened more when I was a child. I don't even remember how we got to the Klaiber house when I was a child.
    Loretta Rucker Land

  2. More to follow which includes a few comments about the Rucker family as well. I am so excited I rediscovered this tape! Glad to share.

  3. I have just started researching my paternal family tree and started with my grandfather, Ulysses Grant Fitzpatrick who lived in Patrick Gap for awhile. My brother Steven Fitzpatrick made a trip there and met some of our relatives from a previous marriage, not known by family. He married Nannie Simpson, who is my grandmother, but I'm trying to find out who the first wife was. My grandfather's father (gggf) was James Fitzpatrick and his mother was Thursa Damron. Which brings me to the question of is she is related to another Damron mentioned in a post by Teresa Klaiber. The name came up on Ancestry of Jessie Olive York, b. 1884. I know we are related to some York's as I had some cousins that lived two houses down from my (gf) Ulysses Fitzpatrick and I believe they joint owned a furniture store in San Antonio,TX or my grandfather sold or left it to the York's. the furniture store across the street on McCullough Ave. It started leaning more and more to the side until they finally took it down. I'm just putting this out there so maybe someone can direct me to a good place to find records.