Thanks to Durham for permission to reprint his interview with his father!
DC: Now you did a lot of driving of drummers, traveling salesmen.
WGC: Well, I used to go to Scottsville. Leave Westmoreland at 6 o'clock. Drive to Scottsville in two hours. Bring a drummer back to Westmoreland.
DC: What were you driving?
WGC: A horse, to a buggy. Old Sam, he'd trot to Scottsville in two hours. Sixteen miles. He'd stop at all the stores between Scottsville and Westmoreland. He'd work the stores in Westmoreland. That afternoon I'd take him to Gallatin with another horse. Work all the stores between here and Gallatin. I'd spend the night with my uncle and cousins. He (Uncle Robert Caldwell, County Court clerk and later Gallatin postmaster) had a big family. We always had a lot of fun together. Come home the next day. One night I was down there, and it turned cold. I didn't have any overcoat with me. Uncle Robert loaned me an overcoat to wear home. It was so cold that before you got to a telephone pole, you could hear it sing. You ever hear a telephone pole sing when it's cold? I had it all the way home, but I made it.
DC: You mentioned one particular day that you drove what seemed like a very long stretch.
WGC: I drove one horse 40 miles one day. Went 10 miles out to Newby. Took a couple of men over there. They were in the timber business. I came back. That afternoon had to take a drummer to Petroleum. That's 10 miles. All the other horses were out. Drove the same horse. A little unusual to drive one that many miles in the same day.
DC: How old were you when you were doing this?
WGC: About 12 years old.
DC: Did your father have a livery stable?
WGC: What happened, he built a livery stable for some men and rented it. They got behind with the rent. Had them to leave, and he ran the livery stable then for a while till we could get rid of it and the store.
DC: We talked before about his being a country school teacher and making a crop and then going into the general store business here in Westmoreland. What type of a man was he?
WGC: Well, he was a good businessman for a country man. He made some money in real estate, buying and selling farms. He liked to own farms, buy and sell farms. I've known a customer to come in and say, "Mr. Caldwell, I can't pay my account. Tobacco didn't bring as much money as I thought it would. I've got a cow I'll sell you on my store account." "How much you want for her?" Man would price her. "Well, bring her and turn her in my barn lot." I've known him to buy cows on debts without even seeing 'em till he got 'em here.
DC: He got treated fairly?
WGC: Usually. He was lucky. He came out pretty good on 'em.
DC: He used to get you up pretty early in the morning.
WGC: He thought if you were going to do a day's work you should be ready to start at sun-up. When he was growing up, they got up at 4 o'clock in the morning, I think, and went to feed by lantern light, ready to go to work by daylight.
DC: How did you get waked up?
WGC: Me being the oldest, he'd call me first when he'd get up, tell me, "Big daylight. Time to get up. Tell the other boys." I'd call them. I'd get up, go feed. They'd turn over, go back to sleep lot of times. I usually fed the stock at the barn before breakfast.
DC: How much stock was involved?
WGC: We've owned as many as six horses at one time. We didn't keep that many up here very long. Usually had a team. Some milk cows to feed and milk. My brothers used to help me milk, but I did most of the feeding. Usually raised some heifers and calves to sell.
DC: You said you got a big kick out of driving drummers with a horse and buggy.
WGC: Well, I always liked to drive a good horse. I could do most anything with horses that anybody else could around here. I don t pretend to be a horse trainer, but I have broken a few.
DC: The most famous horse on the place that I remember, because he was still here when I was a boy, was Old Bill. Was he the best horse you had?
WGC: One of the best all-around horses. He was a gaited horse under the saddle, would flat-foot trot to buggy, and he'd pull good to a wagon. And I've drilled corn with him in the cornfield with a one-horse corn drill without even taking the rein off, just rein his head up and put him in that furrow, and he'd follow the furrow to the other end of the field. Get out to the end of the field, just lift the drill around, and say "yay, Bill," and he'd turn around in the next row. Get to the other end, lift the drill up, say "haw, Bill," and he'd turn around in the next row. You'd have one man in front of you, laying off with a tongue plow. The horse knew to walk in the furrow. The drill planted the corn, fertilized it, and covered it up. You don't see many horses like that any more.
DC: What kind of a man was your dad to work for? You worked for him in the livery business, on the farm, in the store.
WGC: He was a good man to work for. Long as he thought you were treating him right, he'd treat you right. That's true with the hired hands we had. We had as many as three hired hands living here at home. Worked on the farm and in the livery stable. Slept upstairs.
DC: Dad, tell us about the first cars in Westmoreland.
WGC: Well, they were the old-time cars, right-hand drives. Cordell Jent's the first Westmoreland man to own a car. Dr. (Thomas Y.) Carter I believe was next.
DC: Do you remember how old you were when these first cars appeared?
WGC: About 10 years old.
DC: Around 1908 then?
WGC: Might have been later than that. The first car my father bought was a 1916 T-model Ford. Dr. Carter had a car before that. Cordell Jent had a car before Dr. Carter.
DC: Had there been many cars passing through town before then?
WGC: Very few.
DC: How about politics? Did any of the big name politicians of those days come to Westmoreland?
WGC: Cordell Hull used to come. He'd go to the bank to see Mr. Hodges, the drugstore to see Uncle Joe Harris, come down to my father's store to see my father. The first time he ran for office, my father and Joe Vance worked for him and took this precinct for Cordell Hull.
DC: What was he running for?
DC: Did you ever meet him?
WGC: Yes. I went to Epperson Springs with a horse and buggy and brought him to Westmoreland one time. Was going to take him to Portland that afternoon. There was a man passed the store that lived in Portland, was in the tobacco business. He said, "Mr. Caldwell, I'm going to Portland this afternoon. I'd like to take Judge Hull." Judge Hull said that'd be fine. Knocked me out of a trip to Portland.
DC: What do you remember about Cordell Hull?
WGC: He was a cigar smoker. He was a very plain speaker. Took him up to the schoolhouse one time he was here to make a speech to the school children. He spoke about history from the caveman up to that time. Nothing about politics, just talked history.
DC: Were you surprised when he became secretary of state in the Roosevelt administration?
WGC: No, I wasn't surprised. He was a very fair... When he was judge in Clay County, he sent his brother to jail, I understand, for violating the law.
DC: Anybody else besides Cordell Hull that you remember in politics?
WGC: Bob Taylor's been here. So was Alf Taylor.
DC: They were the brothers who ran against each other?
WGC: Yeah, yeah.
DC: You mentioned also going to school in Gallatin. What school was that?
WGC: Hawkins School, a prep school. Preparatory school. It was a private school. Only boys, no girls there. We went on the train, passenger train. We had to leave about 7 o'clock.
DC: What grade did Hawkins start at?
WGC: They had a sub-freshman department, the primary grades. Then they had the four-year freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Seventh grade I went down there. If you got a certificate from Mr. Hawkins, you could enter any college in the South without taking an examination. We had Latin. Geometry. Greek. German. It was an old-fashioned preparatory school. Compares favorably with Webb School, which is still in existence. In 1918, Mr. Hawkins was called to work for the YMCA and went into YMCA work in Army camps. Mr. Williams ran the school for a couple of years, I believe, after that. Then he quit, and it was called Gallatin Private Institute for a while. Then later on, the county bought it and built the high school there.
DC: Did you have any unusual experiences, or any funny experiences at Hawkins?
WGC: We had a football team that had never been defeated on our home field when I first went there. We did get defeated though later on.
DC: You didn't play football, did you?
WGC: Had on a football uniform one time. I played baseball.
DC: For Hawkins?
WGC: On the second team. Tom Boyers, the circuit court judge, he was one of my classmates. Raymond Dennings, a lawyer in Nashville, he was a classmate. Rucker Patterson, who became a dentist, he was another classmate. I've seen Sammy Williams turn little Rucker over his seat and paddle him with a book. Sammy would come near tickling everybody in the class when he corrected one of (INDISTINGUISHABLE). And the teacher in the next room would come near hurting everybody's feelings or making everybody mad if he corrected anybody, the way he did it, just the difference in the two teachers.
DC: What about Mr. Hawkins himself?
WGC: Well, he was a very strict disciplinarian. Very plain talker. If something happened, sometimes... Somebody broke a finger taking a grate out of the furnace, we had steam heat. Maybe he'd make a lecture on things like that, which pleased us. We liked to hear him talk. We'd rather hear him talk than go to classes. He became a Methodist minister after he got out of YMCA work.
DC: How about yourself, you got involved in World War I.
WGC: In place of going back to school that fall (1918), I volunteered for the Students Army Training Corps. I was discharged in December so I didn t go back and finish. My brother (Edwin) went on and finished.
DC: Students Army Training Corps, just what was that?
WGC: You had to have 14 credits from high school or prep school to get in. It was supposed to get you ready for an officers training camp. I was inducted in October. The Armistice was signed in November. Our commanding officer got orders to discharge us the 10th of December. We were lined up in company formation. The first sergeant said, "The following men report to barracks to be given a physical exam prior to discharge." Pvt. Caldwell was the first name he called.
DC: Can you remember when you saw your first motion picture?
WGC: Might have been in Westmoreland. That was in the days before talkies, of course. They'd have a picture show in the schoolhouses around. In fact, I used to carry two men and their moving picture outfit in a drummer wagon. Drive two horses. We'd go four miles over to Withamtown, show in the schoolhouse there. Go to Pleasant Grove. Within driving distance of Westmoreland. Dennis Watkins and somebody else owned it. I forget who the other man was. The reels they had was mostly cowboys and Indians. That's what the people liked. Then when I went to school in Gallatin, you could go to the picture show for 10 cents. They had a good picture show in Gallatin, 10 cents.
DC: Were there any particular movies that made a big stir down here?
WGC: They've always liked westerns. They've always been very popular through this part of the country. Will Rogers was one of our favorites. And William S. Hart, I believe, was another one. Tom Mix. Some of the oldtimers back then. They always got a good crowd.
DC: Do you remember "Birth of a Nation"? Did that create much excitement in Tennessee?
WGC: I remember it very well. We went to Nashville in a T-model Ford to see it. The Ford was missing going down there. We left it in a garage to be worked on. We saw "The Birth of a Nation." They had an orchestra. Drums would sound when the guns would fire. The orchestra was timed with the picture. After it was over, Charlie Omeara and my father and I came home. My brother and Dewey Foster had gone with us, they stayed in Nashville. We ran out of gasoline coming up Horseshoe Bend. We walked home. We had some gasoline in the warehouse at the store. We got two kerosene cans. Dad came on home. Charlie and I walked back down there. Poured the gasoline in the thing, cranked it up, and came on home. Charlie came up and spent the night with us. But that "Birth of a Nation" was quite a picture, quite a picture. It was an exciting picture.
DC: What do you remember about it?
WGC: The shooting, the big drums. The drums were timed with the picture very well. Some parts of it got a big applause from the audience. Some parts of it, the audience didn't like of course.
DC: What where those parts, do you remember? WGC: Well, maybe we'd better not get into that. It was in a Southern city, you know.
DC: Tennessee is known today for country music. Was there much
music around here when you were growing up?
WGC: Yes, there was a blacksmith's shop behind our store. The old blacksmith played a fiddle. And the Jiles family did a lot of singing. And they had some musical instruments.
DC: Did they give shows or just play for their own enjoyment?
WGC: Played for their neighbors.
DC: Was there much singing in town?
WGC: The Jiles family did a lot of singing. They lived in an old store buidling. We boys would go out there. There'd be quite a crowd there to hear them sing.
DC: What kind of music would they sing?
WGC: Sacred music. I believe they had bass, tenor, alto, and soprano.
DC: Did they have barn dances, square dances, things like that?
WGC: Yes. In their homes. They called them play parties. They'd play blue beads, pin the tail on the donkey.
DC: What age groups attended these?
WGC: Teenagers. Young folks courtin'.
DC: Was Epperson Springs in business when you were growing up?
WGC: Man came here, spent a lot of money remodeling. People would come up from Gallatin and Nashville on the train. He had two hacks, horse-drawn hacks that met the train and would take the guests up to the hotel. On weekends, when he had a big crowd, more than his hacks could bring out, he'd call my father up and send over for so many people to bring to the train. I was over there with a team of horses hitched to a surrey one time. Man came along, said, "Young man, you going to take people to the train?" I said, "Yessir." He said, "Will you save that vehicle for Mr. Brown and his sister?" I said, "Yessir." I waited for them. They came. Got over here to the depot, they gave me a quarter apiece. That was a lot of money back in those days.
DC: What was it that brought people over to Epperson Springs?
WGC: They had a dance hall. They had sulphur wells. A lot of people thought the sulphur water was healthy.
DC: Did you ever try it yourself?
WGC: Yeah, I believe some.
DC: Did it make you healthy?
WGC: Didn t hurt me, I don't think.
DC: Was it busy all year 'round?
WGC: Just in the summer time.
DC: How long was their season?
WGC: Oh, two or three months. We got a T-Model Ford while it was open. I used to get 75 cents a passenger to take them over there.
DC: Uncle Charlie Caldwell was in various businesses.
WGC: He and Squire Brown were very active in organizing the home telephone system. That's the way the people got the news out in the country. There'd be party lines. And when their phone would ring, they'd take the receiver down and listen to their neighbors talk.
DC: Was the telephone in widespread use or just by a few families when you were growing up?
WGC: It spread out quite a lot. They had a switchboard out at Bethpage. They had a switchboard at Cross Lanes, after they got started.
DC: How long did Uncle Charlie stay in the telephone business?
WGC: I don't know. He got a job as a rural mail carrier, carried the mail for a number of years, then resigned as mail carrier, moved to Gallatin.
DC: Do I understand he was the first mail carrier in town to use a car?
WGC: Yeah. A T-model Ford. Around 1917. Up till then, it had been horse and buggy.
DC: You used to carry the mail as a substitute rural mail carrier. What type of vehicle did you deliver the mail in when you first did it?
WGC: A T-model Ford roadster. In the wintertime, we had to go back to horse and buggy. The roads were too muddy for the Ford.
DC: What was it like out there in a horse and buggy in the cold of winter?
WGC: In those days, you'd get money orders. People would be staying home, looking at Sears and Roebuck catalogs and different things. They'd come out and buy a money order to order something. It was pretty cold to have to write a receipt with a pencil.
DC: Was there anyway of protecting the driver of a horse and buggy from the weather?
WGC: You had a lap robe. Some mail carriers had what they called a mail wagon. It was like a little house built on wheels. They could keep warm in there. They had footwarmers. They'd heat bricks before they left home and put 'em in these footwarmers and keep their feet warm.
DC: Your mother's side of the family lived at Fountain Head.
WGC: I always liked to visit them. We used to go on the train to Gallatin and get off the Scottsville Accommodation and wait for a train going to Portland. We'd go and stay maybe three, four, or five days, maybe a week, and come back by train. A little later on, when I got a little bigger, we'd drive a horse and buggy over there. I think Grandpa Dye (David Foster Bates Dye) was a farmer. We were over there one time in the winter time, and Grandma wanted a cabbage for dinner. And I remember he people back then they used to cut the cabbage, put them in a place and cover them up with straw and dirt, that kept them till they wanted them. He brought back a nice big white head of cabbage. I remember as a youngster that it impressed me to see him go over there and rake that straw around and get that cabbage out.
DC: What was different about Westmoreland when you came back (in
WGC: They were selling beer in Westmoreland, which they hadn't done before I left.
(After returning to Westmoreland, William G. Caldwell was active in Trammel Lodge of Masons and the Westmoreland Church of Christ. He served on the Town Council and as a magistrate on the County Court. He died in July 1983 at the age of 84.)