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Interview with Leonard Simmons

Simmons, Leonard
Cumming, Gabriel
Date of Interview: 
Bluegrass; Country music; Mountain music; Hunting; Farming; Gold; Rural; Land Trust for Central North Carolina; Pee Dee Lakes Project; Quicksilver; IIIrd Tyme Out; Lost and Found
Mr. Leonard Simmons is the original and current proprietor of the True Bluegrass Music Hall in Eleazer, a town in Montgomery County. The music hall was started in 1988 as a place for local residents to congregate on the weekends. He primarily books groups who play bluegrass and old-timey country music, some from the nearby area and others from as far away as Australia. Mr. Simmons believes getting together and listening to music brings the community together. He talks about how the area has changed since his childhood and how he would like the area to stay the same because, he believes, people in the future will have more appreciation for rural areas such as Eleazer.
Montgomery County, NC; 1940s-2000
Interview Setting: 
Eleazer, North Carolina
Catawba Lands Conservancy, Uwharrie Series
Collection Description: 
Gabriel Cumming conducted a series of interviews about values and land use with residents of rural communities in North Carolina's Southern Piedmont. The goals of the project were 1) to stimulate discussion of land use and values, 2) to increase region-wide awareness of rural attitudes toward land, 3) to enable the sponsoring conservancies to reach the region's diverse rural populations and 4) to challenge conservation and environmental groups to consider the cultural dimension of conservation issues.
Interview Audio: 
GC (Gabriel Cumming): Yeah, that's good. Actually the, you know, the land trust, which sponsors this project, the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, originally I think was started by that project by the--
LS (Leonard Simmons): (Lakes)?
GC: Yeah, the Pee Dee Lakes Project. But now it's independent. [pause] Yeah, so they, they still-They come around from time to time?
LS: Oh yeah.
GC: They keep you in the loop?
LS: Right.
GC: Just got to check to make sure it's working. [pause] OK. Well let's start by, with our names, I'm Gabriel Cumming.
LS: Leonard Simmons.
GC: And if you could just spell your name out for the person who will transcribe the interview.
LS: L-E-O-N-A-R-D S-I-M-M-O-N-S.
GC: OK. And it is June 24th, 2:20 p.m. And can you tell--, describe where we are? Describe the place, location?
LS: Well, the hill above the old Eleazer store and post office I guess you'd say. Church Road.
GC: Um-hum. And specifically, where? This place here and your place?
LS: We're at True Bluegrass. I started this thing fifteen years ago, just so that the old folks around here had somewhere to go to on the weekends. We've been in it ever since. We've missed seven weekends in fifteen years. So that's--
GC: Included holiday weekends.
LS: Including holiday weekends. Yes, sir. We've had a lot of fun with it. Met a lot of people. And of course a lot of the old timers that was here then, done gone on now, but they still ninety percent of my clientele is seventy, eighty, ninety year old people.
GC: Really?
LS: Sure is. Just something to do, you know, they come out.
GC: And, and that was why you originally started it was for, for those people.
LS: That's, that's the reason I started it. I, I grew up, my mother and father and all of my uncles and aunts, most of them played some kind of music and Friday and Saturday nights, Sundays they sat on the porch and pick music, and I just sort of came up with it. And we decided, well we gone do it again.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: And it's been good to me. Sure has.
GC: And you grew up here?
LS: No, I grew up in Asheboro.
GC: Oh, OK. In town?
LS: Well, it was right outside of Randolph Mall over off 64. Of course there wasn't no mall there then, but.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: Just an edge or suburb in Asheboro where I grew up.
GC: And when did you move down to Eleazer?
LS: 1966, moved down here.
LS: Of course all my folks lived down here. All my uncles and aunts and both sets of my grandfathers' and mothers, they all lived within a mile of here. It's all family, you know, that's the reason we moved down here.
GC: Yeah. How did, how did you end up in this area? How did you end up coming down here?
LS: Well, like I said it was my mother's folks lived down here.
GC: They were already here, so--.
LS: My father's folks. They all lived in this area, you know, and had a chance to buy this little house up here and we bought and moved in here in 1966.
GC: You and your wife?
LS: No, me and my mother and two sisters, two sisters and a brother.
LS: I was single then.
GC: OK. And where, did you, did you know Eleazer from coming down here a lot when you were growing up?
LS: Oh, yeah. We were down here every weekend, you know, like I said--.
GC: Because of family.
LS: Yeah, because of family.
GC: Um-hum. So when you came down here, what were you doing here at first, before you started this?
LS: Well, I worked in a box factory industry, the packaging industry for thirty-two and half year in Asheboro. And I quit it in '98. And of course I started this in 1988, this music thing. It was just something else to do, you know?
GC: Um-hum. So you, but your whole working career was at that factory?
LS: Yeah, yeah I worked there all my life.
GC: Um-hum. And when, by the time you started the music hall, were people not playing much music on their own? Like, like when you were growing up you talked about people sitting on the porch and playing music.
LS: Well-
GC: Was that still going on?
LS: That still goes on today, you know, but you give them a-I sort of had an incentive, I had a radio program. I've still got it in Asheboro, WKXR kick 1260 AM radio on Saturday mornings. And when they'd come in here and play, I would tape everything they do, and it sound pretty decent I'd play them on the radio next Saturday morning.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: And that was sort of incentive for them to come play.
GC: Because they'd get radio time.
LS: Everybody wanted to hear their self on the radio, you know.
GC: Um-hum. Sure. What time is your show?
LS: Oh, it's nine to eleven thirty on Saturday mornings.
GC: I'll keep a listen out for it.
LS: 1260 AM Kicks Country, Asheboro.
GC: And [pause]. So was there a, was there a local style of music, of playing that was different from other areas?
LS: No, it was mostly just, well I guess you would call it bluegrass and country. It was back, back in the 50s or 60s. Country was a whole lot different than what it is today. You know, that's, that's a right smart difference in the music.
GC: Right. [chair squeaking] But, but you would, you would say that what, what the folks were playing on the porches here was pretty similar to what they were playing in other parts of the state or the country?
LS: Right. From here to the mountains, you know. It's mostly mountain-type music.
LS: You had your guitars and banjos and fiddles. That's about the amount of it right there. Sometimes somebody would come in with a mandolin.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: And it was mostly guitars and banjos and fiddles.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: What everybody picked in this area.
GC: Yeah. And it was, it was similar to mountain-style.
LS: Right. It similar to the old mountain-style or hillbilly music; whatever you want to call it, you know.
GC: Do you think it was more common of here than it was in the inner, in-between areas, like in the flatter areas of the Piedmont? Is it, is it?
LS: I think, I think mostly from here north. You know, up in the hills more than it was south.
GC: Um-hum. So it's, it's more hills. Wherever there are hills, there's hill music.
LS: Right, right.
GC: Why is that, do you think? Is it--why, why do you think that was spread all the way across?
LS: I think. Well, I think going back to your rural America, you know, there was no electricity in the hills. It wasn't no electricity through here until 1946. So, you know no electricity, no picture shows no where close for people to go to. And they probably couldn't afford it they had of had them. But I think it was just to entertain their own self, you know, mostly.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: It wasn't nothing thirty, forty years ago for a family to come up and every youngin' in the family'd play some kind of instrument, you know.
GC: Right.
LS: And one old man, the grandfather or father taught them all of it.
GC: Yeah. And you still see a lot of that going on.
LS: Oh yeah, sure do. Sure see it today.
GC: In this area? In this community?
LS: Right. I've got kids coming here eight and nine year olds, as good on a banjo as some of these Nashville stars are; and the guitar too. As far as that goes. But they, it's bread in them, I think. I think that's where it comes from.
GC: How had-You think they're getting it from their parents and grandparents?
LS: I think it comes down the, down the, you know, through the family generations.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: I think it does, honestly. Some of it does, sure.
GC: Do you think they mostly do it, only if they--, they only learn if they and their families still stay around this area as opposed to going off?
LS: Well that's really hard to answer because in the last, last twenty years more people have moved away.
GC: Yeah.
LS: Well, you've seen from the land around this country. Most land in this area was owned by one family and owned four or five hundred acres and it was never split up, you know. Now, soon as these younger generations get hold of it they selling it off, you know. And that's what hurts the country around here really.
GC: Um-hum. And do you think that hurts the music scene too?
LS: Yeah, I do. Honestly do.
GC: Because people, people aren't around people--the community isn't as strong?
LS: That's true. They--, another thing too, back years ago there were people come down here and said they just enjoyed the trip. Out on a Friday or Saturday afternoon to come down to the country, you know, for the scenery. And it's sort of getting scrapped, you know. This hill, mountainside now it's skint. It ain't near as pretty as it was twenty-five years ago or fifteen years ago far as I can tell you.
GC: So part of the reason people came isn't there anymore.
LS: That's part of it, I think. And another thing too. I've had, I've got old folks come here and say they feel a heap safer down here with a couple of hundred people. In here, ain't no such part out in the country than they do walking around at the mall in Asheboro or some big town, you know, on account of the meanness around those places too. That's, that's another thing that's got a lot to do with it.
GC: So country people feel more comfortable coming to a place that's in the country?
LS: I think they feel more secure, yeah.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: Honestly do.
GC: Um-hum. So what kind of acts do you generally try and get here at the hall?
LS: We just do bluegrass and gospel is all, all we really book.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: We do a few old mountain bands. There's a, there's a couple I know, there're three sisters out of Asheville called The Dalman Sisters. They grew up in, in the family and their family learned to play. And they're three young girls and they, they go all over the United States playing. They do the old type. You know the claw-hammer banjo, the old-type picking, you know, old-timey mountain music.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: But that's a good example of what I'm talking about; the ones that come out the mountain like that right there. They learned that from small kids on up, you know.
GC: Um-hum. And they play it as a family.
LS: Right, right.
GC: How, how big in it, how far away do the performers come from? I mean how big an area do you get them from?
LS: Oh, I book from all over the United States as far as that goes.
GC: Really?
LS: Yeah. All the big bands have been here such as Doyle Lawson, Quicksilver, IIIrd Tyme Out, Lost and Found. All the big bands have been here, most times twice the year they come in. But locals, that ain't nothing. See locals come in, what I call locals, just weekend pickers from Winston, Charlotte, Virginia. On most any Friday night, you know, they just come in just to jam, you know, pick.
GC: Um-hum. And how, and, and you have some from, from the Uwharrie's?
LS: Yeah. Yeah, there's some from Uwharrie's, around this area. Yeah, there's several from around here. The Morris Boys down here at Uwharrie's. They pretty good pickers. Oh it's, there's several within ten miles here. Good musicians.
GC: Um-hum. And in terms of the people who come, the audience, how far do-Are they mostly local? They coming from further away?
LS: Well they come in here from all around. They, well let's see. The furthest, I guess, I ever had anybody in here is from Australia.
GC: [laughter]
LS: And --.
GC: That's pretty far.
LS: And I've got an old school teacher from London, England. When school's out in London, in the summer vacation, he comes over to the United States. He's writing a book on American history. And this is the first place he comes to and the last place he leaves before he goes back to England.
GC: [laugher] That's great.
LS: He really loves it down here.
GC: But it does--Would you say it's primarily to serve people from all around or primarily to serve local people?
LS: Well, we started out just the local people around here. And, and they enjoyed it, it was somewhere for them to go and something for them to do, you know. And they all liked old string music.
GC: Right. So it kind of, it started, started local and spread?
LS: Yeah, sort of that way I guess you might say.
GC: Though still most of the people are still local, right?
LS: Well, yeah. Well, you know, most people that live within two miles of here never been in here as far as that goes.
GC: Yeah, right. So not all local people?
LS: No, uh-uh, no. We get a lot of people out of Stanly, Guilford, Forsyth, Moore County, Montgomery, Davidson County; all around everywhere. There be people here about every weekend from--
GC: That's great.
LS: probably eight or ten counties around here.
GC: And, and you say it's still mostly old people, but do some young people come too?
LS: It's a few young people getting back into it.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: I try to promote young people getting into it because it's-This, this old talent is gone. Like the old-time fiddle players that's out here now? If somebody don't pick it up, it's a lost art. There will never be no more. I try to promote getting these young people to pick it up, you know, and carry on with it.
GC: Um-hum. Do you think that the old art of fiddling and picking and so forth had to do with the lifestyle that people were living? I mean, did it reflect their own lives? Like they, what they played was what they also, they lived, what they lived and what they knew and stuff?
LS: I think it did. I think, I think it was all-I think it was handed down from one generation to the next, you know. And they had enough sense to keep it up, you know, not lose out on it, 'cause--Well, you know, like I said years ago that was the only entertainment they had.
GC: And did people-Do you think that most people who were playing traditionally were also probably farmers or working on the land in some way?
LS: I think so; I think that was just part of it. I think, you know. It's sort of like a, well you quote it or put it like this, it was sort of like the Mormon people was. As good of a people, they were just netted together and they worked together, and played together, and pulled together, you know. Just a different class of people, you know.
GC: Yeah, so, right. So you played with the same people that you worked with all day long-
LS: Right, right.
GC: and then at the end of the day you'd play together.
LS: Right.
GC: Was a way for people to get together and let off some steam, I guess.
LS: Yeah. That seems like that would be better than not seeing your neighbors for six months, and then him say something or hear something you said or something to make you mad and if he's wrong ( ) for a year, but.
GC: You mean that's the way it is now.
LS: Oh yeah, well you know how it is. These town folks now live right on top of one another and not know that the guy lives next door to you.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: You can't, you can't really be friends with a fellow unless you know him. You don't even know what his name is you don't know him, I wouldn't think.
GC: Um-hum. Do you know about the music history of the Uwharries? I mean, in other words, how the music, music-When people first started? I mean, are there any records or anything you heard about when people started or how it got here or anything?
LS: No, no there's a few things I would love to find out. You know like the name Eleazer. I've always heard it was a Bible. It was named after, I forget who it was, somebody in the Bible but I'd like to know exactly when it was named and all that there, but, you know, I wouldn't know how to start getting it, you know.
GC: Yeah.
LS: Maybe you'll run across it somewhere down the road. I hope you do and let me know.
GC: [laughter] I will. What do you think will happen to the music hall in the future? What do you hope will happen
LS: Well.
GC: down the road?
LS: I'm getting older.
LS: And I'd like to see somebody take it and go on with it even when I'm through with it. You know just--, we lived here because it's been part of the community for a long time. [pause] Maybe it will, I hope it will anyway.
GC: Um-hum. Yeah, I mean do you see the--in terms of the interest in it and the interest in the music and so forth--do you see that changing as the area changes?
LS: No, no really, not really.
GC: So it's pretty constant?
LS: They can come back for something that's old-timey right here. And, you know, we do everything on the old-timey: we don't dress up, we don't fancy up, it's just come as you are and--
GC: Right.
LS: and that's the way we like to keep it.
GC: What about as the older generation passes on?
LS: Well, hopefully, hopefully we got some of the younglings going to be coming home, you know. Take up where we left off.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: Hopefully, you know.
GC: Now do you, do you own other land around the music hall? Or is it just the music hall?
LS: I own what's sitting on here and up the road around here, yeah.
GC: Um-hum. Just this area?
LS: Yeah. I got about seven acres here.
GC: Um-hum. And was this family, land in the your, in the family before you, it became yours, specifically?
LS: It was part of my uncle's land.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: I bought it off of him.
GC: Do you know how long your family's been in Eleazer? Or as long as anybody's been in?
LS: I'd say as long as anybody has because my grandfather lived in this old two-story house out here in the curve of the road and his grandfather lived there. So-- And he was ninety years old when he passed away, and he's been dead ten years over so.
GC: So it's been at least five generations.
LS: At least; four to five.
GC: And that must be at least 150 years.
LS: At least. That house there is every bit of that old I'd say.
GC: Um-hum. Do you know where they originally came from?
LS: Not really. I sure don't.
GC: Have any guess? I mean, do you think they came--?
LS: Yes.
GC: You don't know, you don't where, like what their ancestry is or anything?
LS: No. No, that's something I would love to find out too. You know, where they originated from, when they settled here. Of course, you know, this was a, this was a pretty big populated place back in the early part of the century. There was a, there was a (gris) mill down there on the river. There was a shingle mill, a brickyard. All kinds of things were produced around here; between here and the river. Back in the early times, early times.
GC: And that's-So really the, the size and activity of this area has decreased.
LS: Right, right.
GC: Is that true? Over the past century?
LS: Right.
GC: There were more people here then than there are now? Is that right?
LS: I'd say it probably has decreased half or maybe-Well, I won't say half. More, I've heard people talk about where people lived at and what they did in all back years ago, you know.
GC: Now, what, your farm, how was--What was your family doing mostly on the land when, well I guess within your lifetime or before? I mean were they farming or, were they working in those gris, you know, different operations?
LS: Well, my grandfather was a farmer out here. He raised a little wheat and corn, you know, stuff like that. But like we was talking while ago, when my mother and father grew up, moved off and got married they went to town and went to work, you know, and left them down on the farm the old folks.
GC: Um-hum. Where, they worked in Asheboro right?
LS: Yeah, Asheboro.
GC: That's right. So how is the, how have you, how has the land, use of the land around here changed in your lifetime?
LS: Well, it's growed up with pines now. Mostly it was good farming (city mount) pine ,you know, all the big fields. And that's the biggest change I can see.
GC: So it used to be a lot more open?
LS: Oh yeah, yeah. There were open fields, big open fields. Done had timber cut off of them twice in my lifetime, yes.
GC: What were people mostly growing?
LS: Corn, wheat, oats, milo, grains, you know, mostly.
GC: But now people have mostly set it out in pine?
LS: Um-hum.
GC: Why do you think that, that change came about?
LS: This younger generation. They grew up went to work at town, didn't have time to farm too.
GC: So they kept the land, but they put pines on it because it was less trouble.
LS: Still producing something, you know.
GC: Did you, growing up did you spend a lot of time outdoors in the area?
LS: Sure did.
GC: Doing what kinds of things?
LS: I stayed on the river down here most of the time.
GC: Yeah?
LS: Fishing, camping.
GC: What-Did, did you have like lots of, was like something that lots of kids did? Were there lots of people down there on the river? Or-
LS: Oh yeah. Yeah, there were several of us. Boys around here, you know, play in the river in the daytime, fish-,
GC: Yeah.
LS: --Hunt in the wintertime.
GC: Do you still, still spend a fair amount of time outdoors or out there?
LS: Well, I don't as much as I used to, but don't have the time no more that I used to.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: I run this little shop up here, do machine shop work and welding work and on the forklift, stuff like that during the week then this thing here every Friday and Saturday night.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: I don't do much on Sunday, but lay around.
GC: Um-hum [laughter]. What, what were-- When you have memories of what your favorite things were to do outside, out in the woods, out by the river, what, what are your favorite, what were your favorite things or your favorite memories, I guess?
LS: Oh, I guess fishing was most favorite thing. And wade in the river, (sane), fish. It was, it was cool in the summertime and something to do.
GC: Um-hum. Yeah, was that the coolest place to be?
LS: That was about the coolest place to be, the river.
GC: How far is it to the river from here? I mean--
LS: It's about a mile.
GC: And you would just walk down there?
LS: Right.
GC: Um-hum. Have you noticed a, I mean you were saying the Uwharrie is still pretty, pretty clean as rivers go. Have you noticed much change since you were, since your childhood?
LS: No. Biggest change I've seen in the river is when they put the dam in up here at Farmer, Jackson's Creek. It was the city water of Asheboro.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: They can more restrict the flow of it down here now than what they used to could do, you know.
GC: So a lot of times less water ends up coming down here?
LS: Right, right. See they can turn, they can turn it off up there any time the want to.
GC: But it's still nice and natural the way that you remember?
LS: Right, right.
GC: That's nice. That's fortunate. [pause] Do you think that-Did the amount of time that people spent outdoors change when air conditioning came along?
LS: [laughter]
GC: That's something I always wonder about.
LS: I don't think so. I don't really think it bothered the people out here in the country.
GC: I mean you were talking about people out on, out on the front porch playing music at night.
LS: Yeah.
GC: Do you think they were doing that even after they had air conditioning?
LS: Oh, they won't let the air conditioning blow on in here when they're playing music. It gets their instruments out of tune.
GC: Oh.
LS: That's a no-no.
GC: So you can't, you have to leave if off.
LS: Over the stage you do. Now you can turn it on out here, but up over them picking they don't want that.
GC: Huh-uh. Great. But you've got a fan up there for them I see.
LS: Yeah. Yeah. Those two air conditioning ducts up there, you don't turn them on when they're up there playing music.
GC: Right. Right, so people didn't want to play music in the air conditioning.
LS: Uh-uh.
GC: You'd rather play outside.
LS: It gets everything out of tune.
GC: Um-hum [laughter]. What, what would you say if you had to tell someone about the unique things about this area that are you favorite? Like, that make it different from other places? What would you say to recommend this area, I guess?
LS: It's quiet and it's peaceful.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: You know it's, you can sit back on the porch and, of course I can remember when you hear a car coming all the youngins get up and run and see what it was. Didn't know what it was when you heard it coming, but--It's real peaceful and quiet, I think that's the most thing. You can hear, you can see nature and you can hear your nature.
GC: What kind of nature?
LS: You can hear bobcats holler, you can hear the big owls hollering. You know, it's something a lot of city folks hadn't ever heard, you know, kids.
GC: Right.
LS: See your deer. You can go down to the river and see the otters swimming up and down the river. It's just something to see.
GC: Um-hum. What about the landscape? I mean, do you think it's, is there, is there unique, is the landscape unique or different from, from other places?
LS: I think it's very unique. We've got lots of high hills, we've got lots of low valleys in this area, you know it's-The sea level here is pretty dog'on high considering where it is on down the road here a little way.
GC: Do you think that's affected the way that people live or the way the lifestyle here, as opposed to other places in the state?
LS: Well, that's a possibility, you know. They had, they had the forest and they had the resources for a lot of spring water in these hills. It was a, I'd say when a man was looking for places to build his homestead, he'd look for such things as that, you know?
GC: Um-hum. So you'd say this area was desirable for that reason.
LS: Right. Plenty of water, plenty of forest, plenty of game.
GC: But I guess it's a little harder--, would it be harder for farming than flat land?
LS: Yeah, yeah it would.
GC: So that must have been a, made it more difficult in some ways.
LS: Well, you've got your hillside, you know, don't farm as good as pretty flat land does. But they survived; they raised the stock, something to eat, the corn, the grain to feed their animals; hogs and cows and chickens. And there's two gris mills on the river down here they got to get your corn meal ground and your flour ground for their own use. So you know, they survived.
GC: Yeah. [pause] Mostly for their own use. Mostly producing for their, for themselves.
LS: Their own family. Yeah. Producing for their family.
GC: And was that what it was like when you used to come down here when you were younger?
LS: Oh yeah, we'd come down here every weekend. Visit, you know, grandpa and grandma, uncles and aunts.
GC: And they were still doing that at that time?
LS: They were still doing that then, yeah, in the 50s and 60s.
GC: Um-hum. How old are you now, if you don't mind my --?
LS: Fifty-seven.
GC: Fifty-seven. Yeah. So that's when you were younger. Now do you have any particular special places? Like your favorite places, specific places in this area. I mean I guess maybe this is one, but [laughter].
LS: Well, I just want to tell you I like home as good any place, you know?
GC: [laughter] Yeah.
LS: It's all pretty country. I enjoy it. I enjoy getting back over here towards Jumping-off Rock over here in that part, and come back down here to the river. Then there's a lot of pretty country between here and there.
GC: Um-hum. So if you were to say that your favorite features of the landscape, it would be, it would include the river, right?
LS: Oh yeah, most definitely.
GC: And any, any others?
LS: Well, now that I've said that, I just-- I like the water part better than I do the, the climbing up the mountains, these days.
GC: [laughter] So you, you'd just as soon be down in the valley than up on-
LS: I'd soon be down the river, yes sir.
GC: Yeah. [chuckle] And in terms of distinct plant and, plants and animals that are around here. You mentioned a couple, bobcats and so forth. Are there any other unusual species around?
LS: Turkey and deer.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: Get down in the river and see the waters.
GC: Right.
LS: Of course you know [phone rings] that's the way it is.
GC: Do you need to get that? [phone rings] RECORDING INTERRUPTED RECORDING RESUMED
GC: Putting them on the radio after they perform here at night?
LS: Yeah, yeah if they do a pretty good job I'll put a song or two by them on the radio Saturday morning.
GC: So you have a recording set up here too then, I guess.
LS: Oh yeah, yeah I record about everything that goes on here.
GC: That's neat. And most-What do you do with most of those recordings? After, I mean, except for play them on the radio.
LS: Most of the time I'll give them to the band that made them here.
GC: Yeah.
LS: I'll make a master of it and keep, you know, a few pretty good songs off of it just to keep.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: And I try to give the originals to the boys that did the picking, singing, you know?
GC: Um-hum. Yeah, I was wondering because if I put together all these interviews and images, I might do a little soundtrack for it.
LS: Yeah.
GC: And I was wondering if I might be able to get some music to go with it.
LS: Right, yeah.
GC: I mean, and this would be the best music to get because it would be the local--
LS: It'd be local bands.
GC: Local place.
LS: You come in here on some Friday night when we have open stage-
GC: Yeah, right.
LS: And you can get all kind of local picking.
GC: Yeah.
LS: Yard'll be full, people on the stage and two of those rooms around here will be full of pickers.
GC: So that's the time to come for local picking is open stage.
LS: Yeah. Right, right.
GC: Because then you get all kinds of people coming up.
LS: Um-hum.
GC: Do you have, I'll come if I can. Do you have a, do you keep a schedule or--.
LS: Yeah, no I think I'm out right now, but I'll have at the end of the week.
LS: This coming Friday night's an open stage.
GC: Do you have them usually like once a month or something like that?
LS: Well.
GC: When you can?
LS: When I can, yeah. Just depends on-
GC: Depends on other acts.
LS: If I've got a big band coming through where I can book.
GC: Then you do it.
LS: I book them. If I don't I have an open stage, you know, where I don't charge the people nothing.
GC: I heard a band in [pause] Catawba County. I'm trying to remember what they were called. And they had a song about coming to play here.
LS: Yeah.
GC: Which they were performing over there.
LS: Uh-huh.
GC: It was called Uwharrie.
LS: Yeah.
GC: The name of the song.
LS: Yeah. It's a Bob Shoe, Southern Junction.
GC: Southern Junction.
LS: They were here Saturday night.
GC: Yeah. I was like, "I know that place."
LS: Yeah.
GC: [laughter].
LS: Yeah. And they-There's another bunch got one called Eleazer, they wrote.
GC: They do?
LS: And it plays right smart on the radio around places.
GC: That's good. Getting some, getting some local attention there.
LS: Oh yeah.
GC: Through the, through the name, through the songs, huh?
LS: That's rural folks singing, they've been down here twice. Channel 8 in High Point up here, I don't know if you've ever seen it or not, but goes around to local stuff, you know, and films it. That's- Greensboro News and Record did about a two page spread on it back here a few year ago. That's, that was a real good article. That went everywhere.
GC: That's great.
LS: All up to Virginia and everywhere.
GC: Oh, because they syndicated it?
LS: Yeah.
GC: Sent it around. That's good. Who was the person who did the films now? From High Point you said?
LS: Roy Auckland at Channel 8 TV. Roy's folks, I think.
GC: That's neat. I'll have to check that out. Now when you describe the, your home community would that, what would that include? Would that just be Eleazer or would it include larger area?
LS: Well, at one time that area back from here to Uwharrie was a little bit of ken somehow or another. And that part north and east of here, you know, was all little ken, you know.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: And it was very close-knit communities, you know.
GC: All the way up and down there?
LS: Yeah, yeah. Ophir, Uwharrie, Eldorado, you know, Blaine, New Hope. It was all pretty, pretty close-knit.
GC: And, and so that's what you would define as the community. In the larger--,
LS: Right.
GC: --larger sense of it.
LS: Right, right.
GC: Because the, the area in which people are related to each and know each other.
LS: That's true.
GC: And that's still the way it is to some extent?
LS: Well, not near as much as it used to be. But, you know like I said, there's people selling off these big tracts of land and foreigners moving in. You know, just, it changes every year, really.
GC: Yeah. Do you think having foreigners or outsiders come in, does that hurt the community?
LS: No, not really. They attend to their business and everybody around here tends to theirs, you know. It's just that, it's that type of community.
GC: But it just means that people don't necessarily know each other they way they used to.
LS: Right, right.
GC: It's not as close, close-knit.
LS: No it's, well, it's a shame like I said while ago. It's getting more, more like city all the time. Which you can't do nothing about it. I mean I can't afford to buy up all the land. If I could I would, but I can't do it.
GC: Right. Well, I mean I guess The Land Trust, the, trying to protect some of the land so that-
LS: Hmm.
GC: --So that people can afford to keep it, keep it country. But, but right, they can't buy it all either, [laughter] certainly not.
LS: Nope.
GC: So.
LS: Be nice if somebody could say well we ain't cut no trees, we ain't gone do nothing, we gone leave it just like it's supposed to be. That'll never happen.
GC: Do you think it's good to have the government land around here? Is that, does that, is that a good thing or-How do you feel about that?
LS: I've got my pros and cons about that. You know it's, it's OK I guess, but [pause] well, I just, you know, I ain't gone go into that because everybody's got their pros and cons about the government land. Some people like it and some people don't. Some people like the things they do and some don't like the things they do do, and you know, mess up some how or another. Mostly the only thing I got against the government land is opening it up the deer hunters come in here. And you know the government land joins other people's land. A lot of times they think they own that too and--
GC: Just keep going.
LS: --That causes problems.
GC: So it's mostly the problem is all the people who come in and use it.
LS: Um-hum.
GC: Because it's hard to control.
LS: I've had them try to run me off my own land. You know.
GC: Bobby Hall said that happened to him too.
LS: It did me too. I've got some property down here on the river down here. My brother lived down there now. I was down there cutting some wood one morning, during Christmas vacation. Took my truck and chainsaw down there, I was gone cut little, little wood. After I had cut me up a little bit, cut the saw went and laid it on the truck. A fellow walked up with a .270 rifle. He said, "Boy you sure messed up my day." I said, "How'd I mess up your day?" "There won't be no deer here now." I said, "Well who told you to be in here anyway?" "We got this leased." I said, "No you ain't got this leased."
GC: Because he didn't which side of the, which property he was on.
LS: Yeah, he's on my land.
GC: Sort of sad. Do you think that--?
LS: That has caused more hard feelings in this country than anything else, deer-hunters.
GC: Really.
LS: It sure has. It sure has.
GC: Why? Just because they--?
LS: They come in and try to take over.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: You know. They think they lease 102 acres over here that they will be able to hunt on this here across the road too. And it don't belong to them.
GC: Do you think that it makes people more, that they've made everybody more protective of property?
LS: Very much so. I can remember a time when you could take off here and go fort near the Uwharrie squirrel hunting. Walk across anybody's land you want and nobody never said a word to you. You won't get to the county line now before somebody stop you. Yes, sir.
GC: Because either they leased it or they own and they're worried abou--,
LS: Um-hum.
GC: Someone else getting on it.
LS: Right.
GC: Is it both the local people and the outsiders who are more defensive now? Or is it the, or, what?
LS: These people coming here on leases are more defensive than the local people. They're so greedy.
GC: I guess they figure they paid a lot of money to lease it so they don't want other people getting on it. That's a shame though.
LS: I don't like that part either.
GC: Yeah.
LS: That's the part I don't like about the government land. You know, they let them come in there and lease land, hunt on it.
GC: Do they lease on the government land?
LS: No, they let you hunt it though, you know?
GC: Yeah. So it's kind of two different problems, but they're related right?
LS: Um-hum.
GC: There's the problem with the government, the people hunting on government land and there's the problem with people hunting on leased land.
LS: Right.
GC: But it's both still involves a lot of hunters coming in. I mean, I guess some people in the community hunt too?
LS: They don't many no more.
GC: Not many.
LS: No.
GC: The people in the community do much out, outdoors anymore?
LS: Not far as hunting. Stuff like that.
GC: Anything else? Fishing?
LS: Yeah they fist a little bit, some of them do but not like they used to.
GC: Yeah.
LS: Things is changing!
GC: Um-hum. So basically most of the people who are using the land are outsiders.
LS: Most of them.
GC: Now.
LS: Um-hum. And you can go down here on the river now and be sitting down there two miles from the nearest road. You'll hear a bunch of talking. I hear a team coming down the river in canoes, you know. Used to you never did see that.
GC: What do you think about that?
LS: That's fine, that's fine. You know, I ain't have no problem with that. 'Course they ort to run that river. It's a pretty river to run. If you enjoy it and don't tear up and mess up, I'd go for it, you know.
GC: Do you think there's a risk they will mess it up though?
LS: Maybe not. Maybe not.
GC: So right, I guess there're people coming and doing all kinds of things now, right?
LS: Oh yeah.
GC: I mean there's hunting, canoeing, what else?
LS: Right.
GC: Camping, right?
LS: Yeah, there's all those things can be done on this river, you know. They can put their canoe in way up the river up there under the ( ). START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
LS: Put their canoe in, way up the river up under the camping gear and float for two or three days down it, you know camp in the nighttime, float in the daytime. It's, it's something to do.
GC: Um-hum. And then there are a lot of people coming in with like ATVs, like the all-terrain.
LS: Yeah.
GC: Off-roading and stuff, aren't they?
LS: There's good points and bad points to that too.
GC: Like what? *****
LS: Well, getting over here on your land. Run up and down the hillside there making it wash, where it'll wash out, you know. People don't really like that. If they dig up and down those hills enough, it's gone make a wash. The first time it rains it's gone make a gully.
GC: Yeah, erosion. What about, are there--, what are the good points?
LS: Well, I'm gone say if you had some kids and you had one yourself, you could ride in there with them and just not let them tear it up. And supervise their riding, it'd be a good thing for them to be in there and ride on the weekends. And have a good time, you know. Just turn a bunch of hot-rodders loose in there; they'll tear up more than they do good.
GC: Did you hear, hear about when they were talking about the wastewater discharge that they were going to put in the river?
LS: Uwharrie?
GC: What do you think about how, how that's coming along or what that's going to--?
LS: I'd hate to see that happen. Hate to see that happen.
GC: Do you think that people have, they've done something effective in trying to oppose it? I mean people getting together and stuff?
LS: Well, I hope so.
GC: Yeah.
LS: It's sort of like everything else. If they decide to do they'll go ahead and do it anyway, so--.
GC: So you don't think that the people here can make much of a difference?
LS: I don't think so. Not when they set their mind to go ahead with it, you know.
GC: Um-hum. Do you thinks it's good if people around here take an, take an interest and, and, you know, try to do some grassroots action like, like they did with, with that?
LS: Yeah, it's good. It's good.
GC: OK. It's just a question of whether it's actually going to work, I guess, right?
LS: Yeah. It's good, though, to get in there and try, you know? At least they go a voice being heard.
GC: Um-hum. Have people around here done much of that or is that a fairly new thing? That's-
LS: That's new. That's new. Didn't have nothing to aggravate, to bother them, you know.
GC: [laughter] OK. So as long as people got left alone there wasn't anything--?
LS: Wasn't no waves made, you know.
GC: What do you will get people riled up around here? Do you think it's mostly things that are going to come from outside?
LS: That'd be what it'd be; just stuff they bring in, you know. I think it would stir up people more than anything else.
GC: Yeah.
LS: This is about the only woods, country, well, in this area, in either direction.
GC: You mean, where, right around Eleazer?
LS: Well, the Uwharrie Forest in here, you know.
GC: Oh, the Uwharrie forest.
LS: It's growing up about anywhere you turn. All the, all these other towns are coming, you know, towards it.
GC: So it's kind of like the last refuge?
LS: Yeah. It thinks it's, so. I mean, you know.
GC: So that's why it's important to protect it, I guess.
LS: Yep.
GC: But it's also, that's why everyone's interested in it I guess.
LS: Well, that's what you're doing. I'm proud of you.
GC: Well, we're trying to-
LS: Trying to protect it.
GC: Trying. [pause] Do you think that--, do you think that all the people who, in this, in the community share certain values?
LS: I would say so. I mean the, the ones that lived here all their life, I'm certain of that you know.
GC: Um-hum. Like what?
LS: Well, they just hate to see the old way changed and the new move in, you know. I'm certain of that. Of course I know there's got to be new ways of doing things and all around, but [pause] it's bad to see it all change over night though, ain't it?
GC: Um-hum. So you'd rather the change went a little bit more slowly?
LS: Um-hum. [pause]
GC: Do you think that, that the people in this community still value the land even if they aren't out on it as much as they were?
LS: Oh yeah. The old folks that still own the land, still cherish the land now that's; the ones that still own it, you know. Might had to get rid of it for one odd reason another. They still, still love their land.
GC: Why do you think they do? I mean, it's just, what's that connection?
LS: It's part of their heritage. It's sort of part of them. And that's my thoughts on that.
GC: Yeah. So it's kind of like, how could you not like it? It's like not liking your own leg.
LS: Yeah, you grew up, you grew up with it, you know.
GC: Do you think that people from outside the Uwharrie area understand the perspectives of people in the Uwharries? Like people who, say city people. Like, do they understand what people think and believe out here and what the lifestyle is out here?
LS: To some extent I'd say they would and then to some extent I'd say they wouldn't, you know?
GC: Um-hum. Wouldn't you think people in the city, in Charlotte or Greensboro or wherever, are very aware of this area? Know about this area?
LS: Well, they're getting more, more use to it now than they have in the past on account of more advertisement, you know. Like I said, more land is breaking loose to sell down in this area.
GC: Um-hum. But I guess just because they see the ads doesn't necessarily mean they understand the area, does it? Or understand people in the area?
LS: Well, I think so, in a round-a-bout way.
GC: In a round-a-bout way?
LS: You take most people that's coming down here buying land are on up in age. They're not real young folks and they sort of probably came up grassroots summers about like we did too, you know.
LS: Or it seem like that's the way they act. Ones that I've met of them anyway.
GC: Even if they bought a million dollar house? [laughter]
LS: Yeah. [pause] All the modernizations.
GC: Yeah. [laughter] Yeah, I was wondering if there was just any tension between people coming in and with all that money basically. And then people here who don't necessarily have so much.
LS: Well, that's something I have noticed about country folks. You won't see many greedy country folks. If you've got it bless your heart. If you've got it honest and legal, all that right there, that's fine and dandy.
GC: Yeah. So people don't begrudge other people, there still--.
LS: Right, right.
GC: Still, it's a different lifestyle.
LS: [chuckle] Yeah.
GC: So, so you, you're married now? Is that right?
LS: Yeah.
GC: And do you have kids?
LS: No, don't have no kids.
GC: OK. So it's just you and your wife. Do you, what ,what do you see in the future in this community? Do you think members of your family will stay in this community in the future?
LS: Some of them, yeah, some of them. And some of the younger ones will eventually fully move out the town.
GC: Hmm. Just why, just because, they can't, nothing to do out, nothing no work out here?
LS: Well it's too far to the work, you know.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: Commute. I drove sixty miles round trip everyday to work and back and didn't mind it a bit. Some people now would say that was too far to go to work.
GC: [pause] What do you, what are your hopes for this community in the future? What would you--?
LS: Well, I'd love to see it stay just like it is.
GC: Yeah, that's what you, that's right.
LS: That's my biggest hope. I'd hate to see it grow up into town. It wouldn't be the same then, never. Of course, you know I don't have many more years to worry about that myself. But all these younger people would.
GC: Yeah.
LS: [pause] Leave a place for them to enjoy.
GC: Yeah.
LS: Maybe, maybe they'd have something that they'd appreciate down the road. I'd hope so anyway.
GC: Um-hum. So you think, as time passes people may appreciate what's here more than they do now?
LS: I think so. I think as the population gets thicker in the towns and all I think a place like this here would be more appreciated. I honestly do.
GC: So the trick is to hold on to it before that happens so that it'll still be there when that happens, right?
LS: Um-hum. I'd say that'd be a good investment.
GC: But I guess the question is how can you do that and still have people have employment and an economy out here so that people can be supported?
LS: That I don't know now. We'll have to leave that to that--
GC: That's the million-dollar question.
LS: Yeah. We'll have to leave to that crowd in Washington. Let them rub the crystal ball on that.
GC: [laughter] Yeah, I don't know if they know either.
LS: I got my doubts about that too.
GC: [laughter] [pause] Yeah. Do you think that, that tourism and recreation can bring money into this area? I mean like all those people coming in to-I know that there's a problem with that, like all those hunters coming in and stuff, but I'm thinking not just them but also all the campers, and hikers, and canoers, and everything else.
LS: Well I'd say this, I think it'd be a good thing. If it was run and looked after like it's supposed to be, you know. It couldn't be just, "There it is, gate's open, go in there and have fun this weekend." That doesn't never work.
GC: You've got to supervise it.
LS: Yeah.
GC: Manage it.
LS: You'd have to have it managed. And then you'd have a mess.
GC: Do you think it'll bring money to the community though or, or not? I mean do you think it'll help the people who live here?
LS: Well I can't say it'd help the people that live here any. Because, you know, there are no businesses here to sell them no goods.
GC: Well, do you think that would be a direction to go? To start gearing more businesses towards those people?
LS: Well, it's, you don't know what's gone happen. If you know what was gone happen you'd know how to answer to that question.
GC: That's true. We're just guessing.
LS: Who knows how it'll be twenty years from now.
GC: Yeah that'll, you mean that'll be a ways away, a ways down the road.
LS: One thing about it though, you've got the property, you ain't gone get that took away from you in twenty years, you see. You'd have something, [phone rings] you'd have something to build on.
GC: Right. Well, we're basically done. That's-[phone rings] [tape cuts]
GC: [laughter] Tell me about it, gold hunting.
LS: You ready?
GC: I'm ready.
LS: It's, it's all these little creeks and branches around here, they got little flaked gold in it. Of course the (Cogan's) Mine was one of the biggest in the United States down the road here about three or four mile, at one time. And you can take a pan get any of these little old branches in the wintertime or summertime, when the creeks are bent up a little bit, you know, and got the water flush and find a little once in a while. There's a lot of people that's all they do. Come down here just to gold hunt.
GC: And they come from far and wide?
LS: Oh yeah, yeah. I got an old boy who comes down here from Kentucky every year. Spends the whole summer down here. Camps down there at Morris Mountain, down at that camping place. He camps, hunt there, and hunts gold all summer long and then heads back to Kentucky.
GC: And he's, he must be there now.
LS: Any gold in there, he's finding some, yeah.
GC: And do they mostly, do people mostly pan or do they mostly use like metal detectors?
LS: They use pans. You know the detector's good for finding the veins, you know. You gone find more panning in the branches and creeks. Shoveling up the loose stone, you know, and panning it out.
GC: And that's what you usually do too?
LS: Yep. The old-timey way.
GC: Um-hum. So you, you'd do the whole thing down there by the, by the creek?
LS: Oh yeah.
GC: You'd pan it and sift it and all that.
LS: Oh yeah.
GC: Do you think-So it, that's pretty unique to this area, right?
LS: Um-hum.
GC: It's only in the mountains that, only the Uwharries, that you get that?
LS: Well, you don't do much until you get on down to, and flat ground and sand hills and all, you know. Up here in these hills, they, they're right smart of it.
GC: And that was a big deal at, a century ago or whenever.
LS: Oh yeah, yeah. They was, they was gold mines all over the country around here when people started. Never did produce enough to fool with. The found some, you know, they wouldn't have dug the holes big as they dug them.
GC: Yeah, right. They must have been on to something.
LS: Um-hum.
GC: And I guess they probably got all the really big stuff. Is that they idea?
LS: No. Gold is sinking right now as we talk. It's heavy, it's going down right now.
GC: Oh, so it just gets out of reach.
LS: It don't stop until it gets to the bedrock.
GC: So you think there's a lot still. Most of it still out there? More out there than they found?
LS: Oh, yeah. There's plenty of gold. You're just lucky enough to hit that main streak.
GC: So, do you have to go very deep to get it if--? I mean, if it's sinking.
LS: Well, in the creak or something like that there you get what, what's washed off of the hillside, you know.
GC: That's why it's good?
LS: Yeah.
GC: That's why creeks are good?
LS: Yeah.
GC: So that's something that this area has in terms of economy, but it's not much. It wouldn't bring much money in I guess.
LS: No. It wouldn't be, it wouldn't be-You couldn't live off of it.
GC: Yeah. What do you do with it? With the gold?
LS: Well, personally I keep what little I find, but some people sell it to these jewelers that buy it.
GC: Oh yeah.
LS: Make watchcases out of it. Put jewelry together. Rings, put pieces back in where they cut them; and all you know.
GC: Um-hum. That's neat.
LS: There's a boy down at Uwharrie you need to get up with. He's real big in this gold. And he finds right smart pretty gold. Johnny Morris.
LS: You need to get up with him. Get him to tell you about the gold hunting in this country. He's kept up with it. He knows all about it.
GC: Hmm. Yeah, I saw a map down at the forest service that shows where you can and can't go I guess.
LS: Um-hum, Um-hum.
GC: Because some places they have mineral rights.
LS: Yeah. You can go on government land with a pan, but you ain't going there with a dredge or a sloose-box.
GC: Um-hum. I mean, but the streams anybody can go in, right?
LS: Yeah. Oh yeah.
GC: I mean that's public.
LS: Yeah.
GC: As long as it's in the water.
LS: Um-hum.
GC: Is that right? That's a good resource, I guess.
LS: It's a lot of fun.
GC: Yeah. Did you find, did you find a lot when you were down fishing as a kid?
LS: No. When we was gold hunting, we was gold hunting.
GC: Yeah.
LS: When we was fishing, we was fishing.
GC: Yeah. So you had to, you'd have to be looking to--.
LS: Yeah.
GC: get stuff.
LS: Gold, gold's hard work. What little you get you'll work for.
GC: It's mostly flakes? Little flakes?
LS: Yeah. You'll find a little nugget once in a while, but nothing no size
GC: Um-hum. That's neat. How does it--, do you know why it is where it is?
LS: It's just where the volcanoes formed it years ago.
GC: It's volcanoes?
LS: Yeah.
GC: It's volcanic?
LS: Yeah.
LS: The pressure from the earth.
GC: OK. That makes sense because the Uwharries is a volcanic chain, right? So--
LS: Um-hum.
GC: So that's why it's here and it's not in places that aren't like this, I guess.
LS: That's what everybody figures, you know, regional.
GC: Takes special conditions to make it.
LS: Quartz rock. Quartz, you know, that's like a diamond?
GC: Um-hum.
LS: White quartz.
GC: There's a lot of that here.
LS: Yean, where you find that at in black sand, you'll find a little gold most times.
GC: Oh, really? Because-Is it made from that?
LS: It's made in the same process.
GC: Process. Oh, OK. That's interesting. And is that also the process that makes rhyolite? I don't know.
LS: I don't know.
GC: Isn't that that really hard stuff that they make the arrowheads out of? I mean there are a lot of arrowheads around here too, right?
LS: Yeah, yeah. I guess it was probably made on the same form, you know. The pressure from the hot lava and rock.
GC: Um-hum. You know it's funny because all that stuff is really pretty hard-
LS: Um-hum.
GC: And then gold is soft, right?
LS: Yeah, gold's soft.
GC: But heavy. I guess it just gets squeezed out somehow in the same process.
LS: Packed.
GC: Um-hum. And there's silver too?
LS: Yeah, there's some silver. Types of platinum. Find a little platinum; garnet.
GC: And how can, how do you learn to even tell what you've got? How can you tell it, I mean how can tell what the real thing?
LS: Well, you'll, you'll know it when you see it.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: You'll know it when you see it.
GC: And you can sort out, you know, all those different. All the different things to be looking for.
LS: Well, I say gold's soft. Fool's gold's brittle. Fool's gold'll break and gold will bend.
LS: And it's a little difference in the color.
GC: Um-hum.
LS: Your real gold's are more of a yellow color than the Fool's gold. It ain't as shiny as Fool's gold.
GC: Um-hum. Well, that's neat. Thank you for telling me.
LS: You're welcome.