"Amy just likes visiting with folks."
~Chuck Reece, The Bitter Southerner.
I love connecting with people. Before I knew anything about the field of oral history, I had a habit of asking strangers about their lives. After graduate school, I ended up making a career out of it. Meet just a few of the amazing people who have shared their stories with me.
A. L. "UNK" QUICK, oysterman - Eastpoint, FL
I met Unk in 2005 when he was pulling his oyster skiff up to the dock after a day spent working out on the Apalachicola Bay. I struck up a conversation with him, and he ended up sharing everything he knows about, well, everything. He told me the ins and outs of oystering. I learned about the folk beliefs of Franklin County natives. He and his wife Gloria talked about their family when we met for milkshakes. Not long after meeting Unk, he gave me a handful of pearls that Gloria had found over the years while shucking his catch. I had a necklace made with them, and I think of Unk and Gloria every time I wear it.
Sadly, Unk passed away on July 24, 2020. He was 80 years old.
Go here for my interview with A. L. "Unk" Quick.
Go here to read my piece on Unk and Gloria that I wrote for The Bitter Southerner.
HALLIE STREATER, farmer - Black Hawk, MS
At first, Hallie Streater didn't have time to talk. But when my friend Spooney Kenter vouched for me, she made time. I interviewed Hallie in 2011 as part of a project documenting the Downtown Greenwood Farmers' Market. Every time I found myself back in Greenwood, I'd look for her under the shade tree across from Delta Feed, where she'd park her truck and put out a table to sell her vegetables. I get to catch up with Mrs. Streater just about every time I pass back though Greenwood which, these days, is at least once a year. Here's a picture of her with my daughter when we saw Mrs. Streater in 2019.
Go here for my interview with Hallie Streater.
MARIA DEL CARMEN FLORES, entrepreneur - San Francisco, CA
My 2013 interview with Maria del Carmen Flores was a career first for me: Maria doesn't speak English. I worked with a translator to document her story. But, even with the language barrier, Maria and I made a connection. I take advantage of Google Translate to send her text messages and stay in touch. Now that I'm back in Texas, I should really brush up on my Spanish.
Go here for my interview with Maria del Carmen Flores.
LEROY "SPOONEY" KENTER JR., pitmaster - Greenwood, MS
I first met Spooney Kenter back in 2003. I wandered into his barbecue restaurant, had a plate of ribs, and asked him for an interview. He generously obliged. For the 13 years I lived in Mississippi, I saw Spooney regularly. I'd stop by his house in Greenwood's Baptist Town neighborhood with my daughter for a visit. I invited him to speak to groups of my workshop students, and he cooked for many SFA events. Since I moved back to Texas, I've had a mad craving for his smoked chicken wings. But I still visit him when I head back through Mississippi. Spooney doesn't cook much anymore, but he's always up for good conversation.
Go here to get a taste of all of my interviews with Leroy "Spooney" Kenter Jr.
FLO WOLFE & RITA FORRESTER, Carter Family Fold - Hiltons, VA
In 2009 I traveled to Hiltons, Virginia, to document the Carter Family Fold. I spent about sixteen striaght hours at the Fold, listening to stories, eating pound cake (sadly, there was no pie to be had) and, as soon as the music started, I was on the dance floor, clogging with locals. All of the women I visited were incredibly generous, and I count this fieldwork experience as one of my very favorites. When I returned to the Fold about six months later and four-months pregnant, I was covered up with handknitted baby gifts.
Go here for my interviews with the Flo Wolfe, Rita Forrester, and more of the people behind the Carter Family Fold.
I also wrote a short piece about the Carter Family Fold for Saveur magazine, which you can read here.
WALTER SCULARK, pie maker - Drew, MS
I first visited Drew, Mississippi, in 2002 as part of a community-led initiative to rehabilitate the town's historic Rosenwald School. Before long, I was conducting art workshops and eventually taught an after-school art class at Hunter Middle School. Every time I'd visit, I had to make a stop at Walter Sculark's People's Choice Diner for a plate lunch and a slice of the best sweet potato pie ever made, anywhere. Over the years, the P.C. Diner, as it was known, changed locations and eventually became Drew Fast Food. I kept my habit of paying the Scularks a visit and carting home a whole pie—or three. Walter Sculark and his wife Jessie retired in 2013 but, if I call with enough notice, he'll still make me a pie.
I never interviewed Mr. Sculark, but I did ask him to share his recipe. He'd rather just share his pie.
Pictured: Walter Sculark with my daughter Sofia in 2010.