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Title: Oral History Interview with Roy Ham, 1977. Interview H-0123-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Ham, Roy, interviewee
Interview conducted by Dilley, Patty
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 304 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
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The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-05-13, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Roy Ham, 1977. Interview H-0123-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0123-1)
Author: Patty Dilley
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Roy Ham, 1977. Interview H-0123-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series H. Piedmont Industrialization. Southern Oral History Program Collection (H-0123-1)
Author: Roy Ham
Description: 406 Mb
Description: 87 p.
Note: Interview conducted on 1977, by Patty Dilley; recorded in Newton, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series H. Piedmont Industrialization, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Roy Ham, 1977.
Interview H-0123-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Ham, Roy, interviewee


Interview Participants

    ROY HAM, interviewee
    JAMES HAM, interviewee
    ROBERT, interviewee
    MIKE, interviewee
    PATTY DILLEY, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
PATTY DILLEY:
Start with your family. Were your family originally from Ashe County?
ROY HAM:
I was born in 1925 in Ashe County. My daddy had always been a resident of Ashe County. My mother was from Allegheny County. I was born in 1925 in Helton Township, and that's where I made my life until I left Ashe County.
PATTY DILLEY:
How old were you then?
ROY HAM:
I left in '47; I must have been twenty-two.
PATTY DILLEY:
You're a little bit older than my mother, then. She left about the same time, but she was only eighteen, I guess, when she left.
ROY HAM:
My Grandfather Ham always lived with us until the ripe old age of ninety-one.
PATTY DILLEY:
Boy, he lived a long time.
ROY HAM:
And he'd never been sick, and I never heard him say a cuss word of any kind.
PATTY DILLEY:
Had the Ham's always lived in Ashe County as far back as you can remember?
ROY HAM:
As far back as I could remember. I reckon my great-grandfather Ham lived over on Piney; part of it's in Ashe County, and part of it's in Alleghany County. I believe that's right. And my mother's people were more in Alleghany and Wilkes. She was a Church from Alleghany County. And I lived there until I left in 1947. And we moved one time that I remember, from the old house into a new house, and it was just across the road.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is this where your mother's living now?
ROY HAM:
That's where my mother's living right now.

Page 2
PATTY DILLEY:
Is your second house?
ROY HAM:
Yes. That's the only time that we ever moved, is from the old house that was across the road into the new one. There were seven of us in the family. That included five children, Dad and Mother. I guess Grandpa made eight in the family.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were the other kids older than you?
ROY HAM:
I have one brother that's older than I am. Three brothers and one sister.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was your family real close?
ROY HAM:
Yes, very definitely. We didn't have no money, no nothing, but we were a real happy, and we were all close together, and we're still close together. We are all living except my father passed away nine years ago. And we all tried to watch out after each other instead of quarrelling like a good many families do?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
ROY HAM:
We were real close.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you remember any fights or anything [laughter] like brother-to-brother fights or something?
ROY HAM:
We had very few of those. We had to play together, and we didn't have any fistfights. We'd get mad and fuss at each other a little bit. And when I was five years old I started to grade school down at Helton two miles from home. We had to walk every day. And sometimes when winter would set in along about October, we'd have snow the biggest part of the time until April the following summer.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh.
ROY HAM:
And most of the time we'd wade snow, a lot of times up to our knees,

Page 3
to get two miles to school.
PATTY DILLEY:
Bet it don't snow like that anymore.
ROY HAM:
No, it don't even snow up there. The winters have changed in that part of the country. And we always had to take a biscuit with something in it for lunch. And the wintertime, sometimes the children at that school would take milk and bread to school in a bucket and hang it out the window in the winter and keep it cool. Sometimes we'd wrap up an onion and stick it in our pocket to flavor the milk and bread. That was pretty good eating.
PATTY DILLEY:
You liked that?
ROY HAM:
Yes, ma'am. We didn't have any lunchrooms, period, when we went to school.
And I went to that school until I finished the seventh grade, and then I had to graduate from there and go to Lansing to high school. That was a high school until they consolidated several schools there back in the thirties to make the high school in Lansing. Helton was a high school to start with. And I didn't like Lansing School too awfully well.
PATTY DILLEY:
That was further from home than Helton was, wasn't it?
ROY HAM:
Yes. Some of the things that we done down at Helton, I guess people would frown on it now. We had a well. We didn't have running water like we've got now. All the toilets were outside, and we had one well for all of us to drink from. It had a pump handle on it. And one day this boy who was in a grade younger than I was, but we had to walk two miles every day together, and one day he'd been playing pretty hard at lunch. And this new stuff that they'd started putting in wells, chlorine,

Page 4
neither one of us mountain people had ever seen any of that before, and somebody dumped [laughter] it seems like about a bushel in the well that day. Well, Robert Joins was young—we were all young, as far as that goes—but Robert went out to the well to get him a drink of water, and nobody had told him that they had that stuff in. And he pumped the handle pretty fast a few times and got the water running, and then he went around to get a drink of water while it was still running. And he drank [laughter] two or three swallows, and then he started tasting that bitter stuff, and he came in the house crying. [laughter] Said somebody was poisoning him and he was dying.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And we all cried a little bit; we thought it was poisoned. And one day he was out sailing ships out in Helton Creek, and this same young fellow stumbled and fell and got wet all over, and he had to stay at school wet all day, the rest of the evening, before he could walk the two miles home to get dry clothes, he had to stay at school in wet clothes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Poor kid. He just had it all on him, didn't he?
ROY HAM:
Yes, he did. It was nothing unusual to see a family, maybe two or three children, eating out of the same bucket of milk and bread. And you'd take a turn about with your spoon—each one had a different spoon—but if one person would get out of line and try to get a bite extra, the others would whack him with the spoon handle.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] That's one way to keep them out of your share.
ROY HAM:
When I got old enough to get a job, I quit school and went to the hospital to work.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is this when it was still new?

Page 5
ROY HAM:
Still new. I worked for eighty-four hours a week for twenty dollars a month.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's a lot, for hardly anything.
ROY HAM:
That way I was making five cents an hour. One nickel an hour.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of stuff did they have you doing?
ROY HAM:
Cleaning up the hospital, and orderly. At that time that was just about everything except giving shots.
PATTY DILLEY:
Then you'd have to be a nurse or a doctor or something.
ROY HAM:
Well, I'd do most anything a nurse could except give shots.
PATTY DILLEY:
How old were you when you took that job?
ROY HAM:
I was eighteen.
PATTY DILLEY:
So did you finish high school? Not quite?
ROY HAM:
Not at that time. I finished high school, but I stayed there six months or something, and then I went to Norfolk, Virginia, to work in the shipyard. And I was awfully homesick. I was used to this pure mountain water, and then went to Norfolk in the swamps. You know, that's the Dismal Swamp? And the water tastes rotten. You'd take a bath, and the water would run down across your lip and you could taste it, and it was terrible after being used to the mountain water. And I was awfully homesick, but the War was going on. Another thing that made me sick, I thought people ought to work like us hillbillies to try to make a living, and they weren't. They'd come in the shipyard and just lay down; they didn't care whether they got any work done or not. That went on. And on several occasions I was called on not to try to work and get all the work done, so I'd have enough to do the rest of the day.

Page 6
PATTY DILLEY:
Was this by your fellow workers or your boss?
ROY HAM:
It was the supervisor. And one of the biggest experiences that I had there was, they brought a ship in that had been sunk in Pearl Harbor, the ship "The Honolulu." It was a cruiser. I believe your daddy told me he saw that ship sunk.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, he was over there.
ROY HAM:
He was in Pearl Harbor when it was sunk. The first day that they turned it over to the workers to go aboard, I went aboard to help fix that ship, to put it back in the water. Well, we had done all the work that we were permitted to do on this particular day, and the gentleman that I was working with was a pipe fitter, or plumber as you'd call it in real life, and I was his helper. I was close to nineteen. And we'd crawl back in the ballast tanks and went to sleep.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And all at once Sladen commenced to kicking and hollering and screaming. He said, "Roy, did you punch me?" I told him no. And he said, "Well, get out of here," so he run across the top of me. Now in the ballast tank there's only room for one person to lay; two people can't lay side by side on the deck of one of those. So he'd went in first, and he'd crawled back in the corner and went to sleep, and I had to go to sleep right in under this hole where you get in the ballast tank. Now I'm ashamed at having to sleep with the War going on, but we had nothing else to do, and tired and weary, so we had went to sleep when he woke up screaming. And I thought he'd had a bad dream. And when we got back out on the deck where there was lights—see, there was no light at all in there—it was probably five or ten minutes before he could talk, he was scared that bad. And when he got so he could talk, he

Page 7
says, "Roy, are you right sure you didn't punch me?" And I said, "I know I didn't. You woke me up, a-hollering and kicking." And he said, "Well, there was a sailor in there with us." And I said, "No, there couldn't have been, because if there had been a sailor in there with us he'd have had to walk across the top of me to get in too." The sailor had punched him with his nightstick and told him it was time for him to get up and go to work. And he told me the sailor's name, and he said the sailor had number such-and-such on his shirt, and he described the tattoo the sailor had on his arm, and the armband with the Shore Patrol on one arm. And the man had had a nightstick and had punched him with a nightstick and told him it was time to go to work, and then turned and walked out through the steel bulkhead, and it four inches thick. There was no door there. And he said there was just a glow around this sailor. And that's what scared him, when the sailor turned and walked out through the steel bulkhead.
PATTY DILLEY:
And walked out through the wall.
ROY HAM:
And I laughed at him, because I had seen plenty of people scared wake up from a nightmare. But three to four, maybe five months later, he hunted me up one day. He and I had parted company and were working on different shifts, so he hunted me up one day and dropped me a letter from the Defense Department. It came from Washington. And on that letter from the Defense Department, that sailor, that number, the Defense Department described the tattoo on that sailor just exactly the way that this man described it to me on the day that he was scared so bad, was killed in Pearl Harbor aboard "The Honolulu."
PATTY DILLEY:
That was scary. What did that do to him?
ROY HAM:
He believed it, and there's no way in this world that you could

Page 8
get him to go back in those holes to work, let alone go to sleep. I had to do his work from that day on back in the ballast tanks. When he and I had to go to the ballast tank to work, he wouldn't go. He told me he'd quit before he'd go back in and do the work.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh. Why wouldn't they let you work as much as you wanted to?
ROY HAM:
Get too much work done.
PATTY DILLEY:
And they didn't want that to …
ROY HAM:
Apparently. I still can't understand it.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] I don't understand that either.
ROY HAM:
It's not reasonable, but yet it happened. And they'd keep me there sometimes fourteen hours a day, and do two hours' work. Everything that I could have done could have been done in two to three hours, the way I was used to working in the mountains. By the time the War was over, I was pretty well sick of that type of work, so two or three days after the Japanese had surrendered I quit and came home. School had been going on a few weeks in Lansing, and I told you I'd quit school. So I had a younger brother that was going to high school at that time, and he was bragging about what a good teacher they had at Lansing named Ron Davis. He believed in making a child mind, and if he told you to move he meant for you to move. Just a great, great teacher. He wasn't unreasonable; he was just a good teacher. And I shook hands with him when my brother introduced him and told him if he had been the principal when I went to school that I would probably have finished before I left. And he said, "Well, you can finish anyway. Come on back next week."

Page 9
And I met a real good friend, the English teacher, and just out of the blue sky she said, "Roy, you coming back to school?" "Yes, ma'am." She said, "Well, you'll be in my room. I'll have your books in a minute." I had no intention of going back to school.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And I just joked with her. I was visiting the school. I was going out to hunt me a job and was visiting the school. Well, it wasn't ten minutes till she come with my books, and I would be in her homeroom. And that incident caused me to finish high school. I went that year, passed my grades, and then went the next year and finished. And that was in '47. I graduated from Lansing High School in 1947. The reason that I left Ashe County, there was no jobs, no nothing. By the time you'd get your tobacco raised or whatever, the government would come and cut it down and you couldn't sell it; you couldn't get enough money out of it to last you.
PATTY DILLEY:
So the government came in and stopped you from growing so much?
ROY HAM:
Oh, yes, they allowed my dad and mama one-tenth of one acre of tobacco.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's just terrible.
ROY HAM:
That's not much tobacco. So that year, '47, I put out five acres of beans, and I worked hard on them. That was the only thing I had to do. I wasn't married. And hoeing, fertilized, following the team of horses over five acres of ground, planting the beans, getting the beans in the ground, getting them up, hoeing them, and then it come the great day when I'd make some money off them. They had growed good; they had a good season that year. And when it come the

Page 10
day to pick them, I went out and hired a bunch of people to come in and pick beans at fifty cents a bushel.
PATTY DILLEY:
My mother was telling me she did that. [laughter] She picked beans for fifty cents a bushel.
ROY HAM:
I borrowed the money to pay that. I paid them as they come out of the field. I had to hire a truck and take them to market at West Jefferson, and that cost me on average ten cents a bushel, maybe. And while I was sitting in there, the government man who controlled the price of beans come up and said that was the prettiest … [Interruption: In come some people of Mr. Ham's. Mr. Ham begins to talk to friends for several minutes and talks again of the story about the "Honolulu."
PATTY DILLEY:
And they did a television story about that?
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
On "One Step Beyond"?
ROY HAM:
"One Step Beyond," it was that story. Since I've been working here at Bassett the past five years, this young friend of mine… Let me go back to the beans.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Okay.
ROY HAM:
And then I'll finish this later.
The government man that we were talking about assessed the price of the beans. He said, law, that's the prettiest beans he'd seen that year. The price would be sixty cents a bushel. That's the exact price that I had in the beans that day. And I was a-hoping that when the buyer would see them that he'd give me seventy cents a bushel. When the buyer came around he said, "I'll give you forty cents a bushel." So that left me paying people twenty cents a bushel just to take my beans. I lost twenty cents a bushel on the beans that year. The rest of the beans I had to leave

Page 11
in the field. It was a shame.
PATTY DILLEY:
That was just terrible.
ROY HAM:
What I've never been able to understand is why we paid the government man the money to control the price of it, and all he was doing was just drawing the money and writing and wasting pencil. Because that was twenty cents a bushel. The buyer wouldn't give but forty cents, and he had put sixty cents a bushel.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you think there was ever something between these government men and the buyers? You think they ever had anything up their sleeves?
ROY HAM:
No, I never thought that. I thought it was just an idiotic thing, taking our freedoms one by one, when we could pay a government man to something like that, and then he didn't have any more control over anything than that. A waste of money, a waste of time. Maybe he couldn't use his brain for nothing else; I don't know. But it seems like our government has wasted so much that could have been put to good use, just worthless things like that. It has hurt me. It's taught me to distrust my government. I can't help it. Some of the hardest times I ever saw was when our government… One year we didn't have a bite of meat in the house. We weren't asking nobody for nothing. But on this year—it must have been in '36 or '37—our government come and got our next-door neighbor's pigs, twelve of them, and killed them and buried them. And two or three families there with not a bite of meat in the house. Not a bite.
PATTY DILLEY:
Now why did they do this?
ROY HAM:
Oh, to run the price of other pigs up.

Page 12
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they do this with this man's permission, or did they just come in and kill them?
ROY HAM:
He kind of begged them to let him give them to some family that needed them. No, that wasn't our government's wishes at that time. That is what has brought us up to what we're in today. Right now it's pretty hard for me to say anything good about our government.
PATTY DILLEY:
It's kind of ironic that all the people were …
ROY HAM:
All the people throughout the world that were starving, and that next year our government took millions of bushels of wheat out in the ocean and dumped it. Now we have never paid for those pigs. We have paid interest on the money year after year after year until today. That's still down in this big debt that's hanging over our head. Done nobody no good. The millions of bushels of wheat that was dumped in the ocean in '37 and '38 may have kept us out of the War; if we had just given and helped the hungry people instead of making them fight, maybe things would have been better. I don't know where the Lord was at when all this was going on.
PATTY DILLEY:
He was still there, I guess.
ROY HAM:
He was bound to have been there, and some of these days He's going to frown on what we've been doing, maybe.
PATTY DILLEY:
This time you were talking about when you-all didn't have hardly anything to eat, was that during the Depression, or was that way after?
ROY HAM:
I don't even remember the Depression.
PATTY DILLEY:
You were born right after that, I guess.
ROY HAM:
I was born before… Well, I don't even know what the

Page 13
Depression was.
PATTY DILLEY:
I know it. My mother had a problem remembering about it, too.
ROY HAM:
I've heard so much talk about it. Some people refer to the good old days when you was making a nickel an hour. [Interruption: James Ham, one of Roy's brothers, and Robert, a friend of Roy's from Chilhowie, come in and stay. Both of them live in Newton today.]
ROY HAM:
The good old days that the people talk so much about was when they were paying a nickel for a Coca-Cola, but they don't realize that they were making about a nickel an hour and it was taking one hour's work to buy one Coca-Cola, compared to if you're making three dollars an hour now, you'll get fifteen Coca-Cola's for one hour's work.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is that what that lady was making, working in Bassett?
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Three dollars an hour, and she's complaining.
ROY HAM:
This lady was complaining about Coca-Cola's being so high-priced now, twenty cents apiece. Said she could remember the time back when she was making ten cents an hour, that she had money left. A Coca-Cola was just a nickel. And I said, "Lady, if a Coca-Cola was a nickel and you were making ten cents an hour, that took thirty minutes to buy one Coca-Cola, compared to buying fifteen Coca-Cola's now for an hour's work." And she said she had never thought about the good times and bad times that way. She was talking about it nickel for nickel. So I really don't know what the Depression was. I don't want to go back to the times right after the Depression.
PATTY DILLEY:
Your father was in farming? Is that what he did?
ROY HAM:
Yes, he was a farmer.

Page 14
PATTY DILLEY:
About how many acres did he own?
ROY HAM:
About ninety acres, I guess. And the government would let us raise one-tenth of one acre of tobacco to raise a family of eight on. At one time we were cut down to one-tenth of an acre. And that just wasn't enough for eight in a family to live on. So when we got old enough we had to scatter out. And there was no jobs. The job that I had taken at the hospital before the War paid me twenty dollars a month for eighty-four hours a week work.
PATTY DILLEY:
There wasn't any industry back in the county?
ROY HAM:
No industry whatsoever. No way to make a living. Well, it was so far back, we didn't pipe the sunshine in, but we carried a lot of moonshine with us …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… on Saturday nights. Carried it in gallon jugs.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did your father ever make any of that?
ROY HAM:
[laughter] No. Not to my knowledge. I never saw any.
PATTY DILLEY:
You would be ashamed. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
I had never seen my father drunk, drinking liquor, never. What he done before we got up that old, I don't know.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you-all ever drink any, you and all your brothers? [laughter] I know James, and I bet he did.
ROY HAM:
Not while we were at home. We wasn't allowed to. We often went to church. One night we'd go to one church, maybe up in Virginia. The next night we'd go up Horse Creek to another church. Sometimes it'd be eight or ten miles walking. No automobile. We didn't even have

Page 15
electric lights back in those days. And on one occasion that I remember pretty well, three of us went up to Helton Valley up in Virginia to the church. There was a crowd outside cutting up. And the sheriff was sitting in the front row because he was right up next to the preacher in the Amen corner. One of the boys hollered outside, and we saw the deputy sheriff heading out. I stepped up on the steps and met him coming out, and the boys that were with me [laughter] , one of them headed back to North Carolina and one of them headed for the woods. One of them got tangled up in a barbed-wire fence—like to scratched himself to death—and the other one went down Helton Creek …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [text missing]
ROY HAM:
[When I got] back to North Carolina, he said, "What happened to you?" I said, "I went in to listen to the preacher." [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Were you outside when all this hooting and hollering was going on?
ROY HAM:
Yes, but I met the sheriff coming out.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you went in. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
I was going in.
PATTY DILLEY:
(To James) Roy got out of it that way. He was smart. [laughter] Did the deputy ever take his gun out?
ROY HAM:
No, but he searched me one time for a gallon of liquor. Me on the motorcycle. Now I never had a gallon of liquor in my life. That highway police scared me the worst I was ever scared in my life.

Page 16
James or (To Robert) Was you with me that night? There was somebody on the back of the motorcycle.
PATTY DILLEY:
(To the others) You-all straighten me out if he starts telling [laughter] a lot of stories.
ROY HAM:
(To James or Robert) It may have been before you and I met.
PATTY DILLEY:
How young were you then, when they stopped you on the motorcycle?
ROY HAM:
Twenty-two, I guess. I didn't give them no race, because I was already stopped and right at dark. And in sections of the country, just like you have gangs now, the ones of us from North Carolina, the ones up in Virginia were waiting on us to whip us in gang fights.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were they just gangs of friends or boys or something? What?
ROY HAM:
This was the sheriff's, but I thought it was a gang that was after me.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did these gangs ever get into fights or anything?
ROY HAM:
Not with me, because it was too easy to run.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Did you ever hear any stories about them getting in fights?
ROY HAM:
Yes, a lot of times they'd fight. It wasn't the gang fights like we have now.
PATTY DILLEY:
There wasn't anybody killed or nothing like that.
ROY HAM:
No, but sometimes mighty wrung.
PATTY DILLEY:
These big gangs, did they have motorcycles, or what kind of gang was it? Did they have automobiles?
ROY HAM:
That was on foot. There wasn't too many automobiles and cars back in those days. I have walked… I'd hitch a ride of

Page 17
the evening to get to West Jefferson to go to a picture show, and then have to walk the fifteen miles home that night. There wouldn't be enough cars going that way to hitch a ride with to get in home that night. And I have slept in the road. (To James) Would you remember the night that we woke up there at Lansing, the car pulling around us? Me and you and Billy Joe, wasn't it? We'd got tired. That was eleven miles from West Jefferson. And we'd got tired, lazy, and we was going to sit down there in the road and wait till a car come along and ride the five miles home. Instead of waiting, we lay down stretched out across the road, and we went to sleep, all three of us. And as I woke up, there was a car over in the ditch pulling around us, to keep from running over us. And that feller went away telling about seeing three drunks out there in the road.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And neither one of us was drinking.
JAMES HAM:
Tell her about running up the telephone pole.
ROY HAM:
Yeah, I had a run-in with women.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
That's true, what he's telling you, but he'll lie to you about the way it happened.
PATTY DILLEY:
Okay, let's hear about that… [laughter] He don't want to tell.
ROY HAM:
It's something I can't tell, Patty. No, it's not that bad. I was scared of women, especially this one, and she didn't look like this one [like Patty].
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]

Page 18
ROY HAM:
And she wasn't as nice a girl as this one. And she made a grab at me, said, "You're the one I want."
PATTY DILLEY:
Where was this? Where did this happen at?
ROY HAM:
That was over on Horse Creek at Tuckerdale.
PATTY DILLEY:
How old were you then, just a young one?
ROY HAM:
I was twenty or more. And instead of climbing the telephone pole, I clumb the guy wire by my hands like a monkey, faster than she could run.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And I stayed up on the telephone pole till she left.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
JAMES HAM:
It's true.
ROY HAM:
Patty, you're a grown girl. She said she'd been with every man there except me, and she made a grab at me. And until today, if she's still alive, she never caught the one that went up the telephone wire.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
Now, James, that sounds kind of bad on you.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] (to James) You were there.
ROY HAM:
Yes, he was there.
JAMES HAM:
Yes, but I wasn't in the '34 Chevrolet.
ROY HAM:
I don't remember nothing about a '34 Chevrolet.
JAMES HAM:
Well, they'd take those women for a ride.
ROY HAM:
Well, you're talking.
JAMES HAM:
I know it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, we don't have to talk about that one any more. Changing

Page 19
the subject, did you-all go to church a lot back then?
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
How many nights a week did you go?
ROY HAM:
Well, through the summer …
JAMES HAM:
About every night.
ROY HAM:
You had to walk. There were no automobiles to ride. And they'd have bigger crowds at church then than you have now, because the people enjoyed walking back home. And crowds of us would go five or six miles to church, and then we would all walk home of a night.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kind of things did you do at the service? Did you-all have a preacher, or was it mainly singing, or what?
ROY HAM:
It would be for revival services that we'd go every night. I didn't go much to Sunday school. I reckon it was in lieu of the trip home. Enjoyed walking with the crowd. I was afraid to walk by myself; there was too many boogers out.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
I've walked backwards many a time to keep a booger from coming up behind me. One time, we didn't have running water in the house, and we heard that there was a store in Lansing that had two sinks. This was back during the War, and we decided if we got up at three o'clock, we could walk the five miles to Lansing and buy the sink and then go on to school, to keep someone else from getting it. So we'd walked a little over a mile. It was around four o'clock, and you know that's the part of the day that it's the darkest. Me and my brother got out to where John Sheets lives, and there was a gap where

Page 20
he'd lay the fence down for moving stock from one field to the other. And it was just a wide place in the road, and it was foggy that morning. And we walked by, and there stood John Sheets. I said, "Well, good morning, John." He didn't speak. Freeman said, "Good morning, John," and he didn't speak to him. We both saw what we thought was a man standing there, and we turned and walked backwards for maybe twenty or thirty foot. And the man was walking on gravel about knee-deep and not making any racket. And that was a little too much for us to take …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… so my brother broke first, and if that man or whatever it was behind us, when we got to the top of the hill he was running pretty fast. We got way into Lansing before dark. Yes, I was scared. Now, had I been the only one that see that, then I would think that I was imagining something. But there was two of us saw the same one. We both spoke. And we thought it was John Sheets, and we asked John about it that afternoon. He said no, he wasn't out that early. And what scared us, it bothered us; it was right behind us within five or six foot of us and not making a bit of racket walking in the gravel.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were you-all walking then, or were you-all running? [laughter]
ROY HAM:
After about twenty foot, we were running.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
We would hit the ground about every twenty foot. That was moving on, wasn't it, Robert?
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] You would make Lansing before dark. Gosh. What were you-all doing out that early in the morning anyway?

Page 21
ROY HAM:
We were going to Lansing to buy a kitchen sink.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, yes, you had said that.
ROY HAM:
You couldn't find one. That was during the War. And we wanted one to put in the house so we wouldn't have to get up of a morning and go carry a bucket of water. And the way we bought our clothes, we'd gather peppermint, spearmint, elderflowers, dig all kinds of herbs, pick black-berries, anything we could pick and take to the store and sell, we'd do that to help buy our clothes. And my mother made soap out of lye. A little rough; it didn't smell as good as the soap you go to the store and buy today, and a little harder to make than it was to go buy it. And these people that has it so rough now and starving to death and longing for the old days, I wish they had a little bit of that.
PATTY DILLEY:
Lye soap. That's rough on your skin, too.
ROY HAM:
In 1949 I had the motorcycle wreck. Had both legs broke. And there was a city fellow from Newton went up to Horse Creek to go groundhog hunting. And he was pretty well drunk, and he left his wife there at my mother's where I was at until him and these other gentlemen could go groundhog hunting. And they'd been gone a good little bit, walking across the hill, and he saw a groundhog and he shot it. And my uncle hollered at him and said, "Good Lord, get on that groundhog. It's getting away." And he jumped on, and it was a polecat; it wasn't a groundhog. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
By the time he got back to the car, his wife was in the car and ready to go. And I didn't know that had happened. I saw her jump out of the car and run. And she blessed him out, and she wouldn't get

Page 22
in the car.
PATTY DILLEY:
I don't blame her.
ROY HAM:
So they put him on the back of a truck and took him back to Horse Creek, because the polecat didn't do any good for the perfume. And they got to Horse Creek, and they got a gallon of soap belonging to my Aunt Hattie and took him down to Horse Creek and tried to wash that off of him, knowing all the time that that lye soap wouldn't do no good. And they rubbed all the hide off of him [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… and still had to bury his clothes. And I hadn't saw him until, say, five or six years ago. That would have been up in twenty years that I hadn't seen the feller since. I met him out where I work one day, and I said, "Hey, you killed any polecats lately?"
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
He stopped and said, "You're one of them Horse Creekers. You are a Ham or a Brooks, one. Which one are you?"
PATTY DILLEY:
Did she make that soap to sell?
ROY HAM:
No, just made it to wash clothes with.
PATTY DILLEY:
To save some money.
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
So you-all sold tobacco, and then you-all sold your wild plants and stuff. Who bought the wild herbs and stuff that you-all gathered?
ROY HAM:
At the stores.
PATTY DILLEY:
And then they bought them for somebody else or something, or what? Do you know what they did with them?
ROY HAM:
They would take and make chewing gum out of the peppermint and

Page 23
spearmint, candy out of the horehound. And some of the other stuff that we gathered was catnip, lowbeally, and we had a bamgilly [balm of Gilead?] tree that we'd pick the buds off of. That was about the easiest money you could get. Did you ever hear of bamgilly bud?
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I never heard of that.
ROY HAM:
Oh, there's plenty of them here. You've saw them plenty of times, up on Buffalo Creek.
PATTY DILLEY:
I probably didn't call it; I probably just saw it.
ROY HAM:
Next time you go down the river, you look at those trees that's on both sides of the river. The biggest part of them is bamgillies. They look about like these sycamore trees; they favor them a good bit, except they're slimmer.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were their leaves good to chew?
ROY HAM:
No. The buds really smell good when you get them. They're so heavy and sticky. They make some kind of salve out of them, I believe. They have a good healing quality about them.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you-all do any other things to make money?
ROY HAM:
We'd go help the neighbors hoe corn or whatever we could do at small jobs. Even the neighbors didn't have the money in a lot of cases to pay for the work. Now that's not in the Depression; that was many years after the Depression. That's what's got me mixed up about what is good times and what is bad times. I don't know the difference.
PATTY DILLEY:
It was all kind of the same. That's the way my mother was. She was trying to tell me about it. Did your father have any cattle or anything like that?
ROY HAM:
You had to have some cattle and some sheep, from time to time

Page 24
a few chickens. I had a pet rooster one time and taught him to fight. He made a mistake. He nailed my mother one day, and she was about to kill him with a board.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
Do you remember that, James?
JAMES HAM:
You had a pet sheep up there, too, didn't you?
ROY HAM:
You was the one that got on the fence.
JAMES HAM:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And James couldn't get across the fence because the fence was loose, and he'd got about halfway across it and the sheep would butt him, go "Ba-a-a-a", and James would swing out pretty near the wall and come back back at the sheep. And that would make the sheep mad, and [sheep noise], butt him again. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
If you got in a field with a grown buck sheep, you could be in trouble. Myself and Carl Spencer were walking up the meadow one day to keep from getting muddy. You see, a car couldn't get up that road in the wintertime. From October until April or May, an automobile couldn't get up this highway leaving about a mile. On this particular day it had been raining. The creek was up; the branch was up. And the road was so muddy we didn't want to walk it, so we walked up the meadows. Had to go through the meadow where the fighting sheep was at. This other gentleman had a stick to keep the sheep off of us, and he was swinging the stick back and forward and making the old fighting sheep to stand back. So we'd walk backward going up the branch, and I gave him a shove. He dropped his stick. The sheeps was about to get him.

Page 25
So the sheep took out after him and run him across the branch, and every time he'd jump the branch the sheep would jump. And it tickled me so good, and finally Carl got up enough speed to run and jump across the fence. And I was too busy laughing about the race. They run a good five minutes, jumping the branch and running [laughter] up the hill. And I didn't have time to think that it would be my turn later, so here the sheep saw me and here he come.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And I was running toward an old beech tree that was standing out above the fence, and I made the tree before the sheep got me. As I went under the tree, I grabbed a limb and swung up and went and clumb the tree. Well, I didn't get up in the tree till about a dozen hornets had stung me. I had stuck my head in a hornets' nest. I turned loose of the tree and fell to the ground right by the side of the sheep. And there was a hornet that popped the sheep right on the nose [laughter] , and me and the sheep, from right then on for the next two or three minutes, we run out through a swamp.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And hitting big weeds, and we both laid down right by the side of each other to get away from the hornets. Every time a hornet would sting that poor sheep, he'd go, "Ba-a-a, ba-a-a." [laughter] But I thought it was so funny, Carl running to get across the fence [laughter] , he couldn't climb the fence, that I was about to get hurt for laughing.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you-all ever have cockfights or anything like that?
ROY HAM:
No. I don't think I could have watched anything like that. You see, I killed a groundhog one time. And I looked down at the

Page 26
groundhog after I'd killed it, and I never could figure out why did I kill the groundhog? So I hung up my gun, and I don't think I've ever killed anything since.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you-all go hunting a lot?
ROY HAM:
No. James did, but I could never kill anything. I was forced to get rid of a cat two or three years ago, and I had to get a neighbor to kill my cat. I didn't have the heart. It had been run over with a car. And I guess that's the reason that's kept me in this shop all these years, making musical instruments. I can't go hunting; I don't like to go fishing; my wife won't let me run around with women.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] So you've got to have some pastime.
ROY HAM:
I had to have something to do.
PATTY DILLEY:
What kinds of things did you do when you were a kid, to have fun?
ROY HAM:
We made what they call now Appalachian toys. Some of the first toys I remember would be these blocks; some people call them clackers. They're making them out of plastic now, but we made them out of wood. And we had slingshots that we'd shoot and kill snakes. We made motorcycles.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you make those?
ROY HAM:
Well, we called them motorcycles. They was just something to coast off the hill. We had to work to push them up the hill, and in some instances we'd saw the wheels off of a log of black gum. We had brakes on them. We had springs on the seats, but the way they were constructed, if you hit a rock with the front wheel it would throw you,

Page 27
because the front wheel would fold up with you. And a lot of times we'd wreck the motorcycle, and it'd take us another week to get them repaired to ride the next Sunday. And we'd hoe corn all day, thinking. We'd watch a black cloud. We'd go out the row of corn, digging up the corn and watching that black cloud to see if it was going to rain so we could go work on our motorcycle.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And we'd push those up the hill. It'd take us a whole lot longer to push them up the hill than it would to come down. That was in the summer that we'd do that. In the winter we always had bobsleds that we'd make out of wood, and put cradle fingers on the runners to make them run faster. Anything we could do to get up a little more speed. One winter we were going to put a set of wings on the bobsled and fly it across the branch. I like to froze to death that day, because it didn't work.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
JAMES HAM:
Just got to the branch.
ROY HAM:
It just got to the branch, right in the branch.
PATTY DILLEY:
You were telling a story earlier about going swimming and everything. [laughter] Go ahead and tell us that. Don't be ashamed for that. I won't put you on the spot.
ROY HAM:
[laughter] That is on the spot. There was four of us boys. I'd say we were thirteen or fourteen, maybe fifteen years old, and we were going swimming. We didn't have bathing suits like you've got now. When you come to a place deep enough, you just went swimming.

Page 28
That was it. And on this day it was hot outside, and we walked up Helton Creek till we come to a place that was deep enough to go swimming. And we pulled our clothes off and went swimming. Meanwhile, two ladies maybe twenty or twenty-five years old must have saw us go swimming, so they came down through the woods. And they had a foot log right above our swimming hole, and those girls come and crawled on the foot log, kind of watching us swim. We saw them coming and we went to the deepest water we could get, which was right up at our chin. And the water from mountain streams in the summertime, in July it was still cold as ice. They like to froze us to death …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… keeping an eye on us, keeping us in the water. My toenail was about to come off over there; it froze.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did your daddy make you work a whole bunch, or did you-all think it was just…
ROY HAM:
We thought we had to work hard… Mountain life, I guess, is the best life there is. But for a kid that wants to do something, play, work is hard. Hoeing corn, beans, potatoes.
PATTY DILLEY:
But then you got to go out and have your fun afterwards, then.
ROY HAM:
One of the things that I can't understand, I don't know where it came from or what has happened to it, but we had a game the first day of May every year. A group of people would get together, and they'd go and hang a May basket. Picked the first flowers they could find, and if they go up to a neighbor's porch and throw that basket on the porch and holler, "May basket!" people in the house were obligated to catch every person in the crowd. And sometimes it would take till twelve or

Page 29
one o'clock for the old farmers to do that. The people that brought the May basket up there would throw the May basket and then start running down through the fields or woods or whatever. And the people in the home thought they were obligated to catch everybody that was in the crowd that hung the May basket.
PATTY DILLEY:
I remember doing something like that when I was a little kid. We'd take bundles of flowers and go and leave them up on people's porch and ring the doorbell and run. But we never had them chase us. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
In that section of the country they felt obligated to catch every person in the crowd. And the first one that the old farmer could catch, if she was a young, pretty girl, he got to kiss her.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
She would run to get away from him.
PATTY DILLEY:
I see why they'd run now.
ROY HAM:
But sometimes ladies would dress up like men to keep the men from kissing them. Well, after a hard day's work of plowing, I don't see how the old farmers had the energy for that.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
But they all, at that time in life, everybody looked forward to the first day of May. And sometimes we'd do that the entire month of May. Every night somewhere, somebody would be doing that.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you'd get in big crowds to go around and do this?
ROY HAM:
Oh, yes. The bigger the crowd, the more you could laugh and holler and have a good time. You didn't laugh out loud until after you'd hung your May basket. That was supposed to be a surprise. Catch

Page 30
the farmers at the supper table. And the faster that farmer gets out and catches them, the quicker that he'd go back and go to bed. And we'd a lot of times gather at molasses boiling. After you'd gather the cane and get it ground and boil it sometimes till two and three o'clock in the morning. That's what we used for sugar. We couldn't buy sugar; we had to make it. And a lot of times people would bring their musical instrument in and play hillbilly music. I think that's the way a lot of the songs were handed down from family to family, for years, from generation to generation.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you have a lot of music around you all the time? Like in your family, did people play?
ROY HAM:
Not in my family. There was no music. We had one old Victrola that my daddy had won at a sale. They had wrote everybody's name down and drawed a name out, and my daddy won it. And he couldn't stand music. He liked music, but the people that played it, he thought they were all lazy and wouldn't work. If they played music through the day when you could do a little farming …
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
PATTY DILLEY:
I wanted to ask you about your first dulcimer. How did you get to making musical instruments? How did you ever get interested in that?
ROY HAM:
Everywhere that there was a gathering, some of the mountain people had some of their instruments along and played. And I always loved fiddling, banjo picking, or anything. And the nearest I ever come

Page 31
to an instrument would be to get a groundhog hide and stretch it across a box, put a handle on it, and make a banjo. My daddy didn't want us to have a guitar or nothing, but I had worked and saved up twelve dollars and ordered me a guitar from Sears, Roebuck. And I was as happy as a person could be, even knowing that I couldn't pick it, because a guitar that cheap, you couldn't… To me, the twelve dollars was a fortune. And one time in 1946, there was a gentleman put on a show in Lansing, where I went to school. And if there was hillbilly music around, I'd always be sitting in the front row. And on this particular night, the best part of this man's show was to get somebody from the audience out of the crowd up on the stage with him, and would pop jokes at him. I thought that the gentleman was going to let me pick his new Gibson banjo, and I wanted to pick it. Everybody out in the audience knew me; they were all my friends and family. I got up on the stage with him, and instead of letting me pick his store-bought banjo, he'd pop jokes and had the people laughing because I was so backward. I had been on stage before; I had been in crowds; and I could talk, and it never bothered me. But on that night, with him popping the jokes and everybody happy and laughing, I started to say something. My mouth worked; my tongue worked; but I didn't have any voice. And the people hollered. I could take a run and jump up in the air and turn a flip and keep going. And everybody knew that, and they hollered so much, wanting me to turn a flipflop, that I walked out to the end of the stage, unable to talk, and turned a flip over, off of the stage, right by the side of my chair and just set down.

Page 32
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And it was an hour before I got so I could talk. Now being able to do that eased it a little bit, but I had never been on stage again until just recently. It was thirty years before I was able to get back on stage in front of people again, because of that one incident. But last summer, which was twenty-nine years from the year that that happened then, this old lady here in Newton asked me to take her to the mountains with me on Saturday morning. I agreed to take her, and about six or eight miles from where this incident took place is where she was going. And I'd never been over there in all these years, twenty-nine years that I had never been to this road since, where this lady was going. And when we got to where she was going, instead of sitting her out by the side of the road, after driving a hundred miles I took her on up to the house and knocked on the door to see if there was anybody at home. I didn't want to leave her there by herself. I knocked on the door, and a real old, grey-headed man came to the door. The only thing that he could say was, "My God, Roy Ham. The last time I saw you, you turned a flipflop off of the stage at Lansing. You just made a durn fool out of the feller that was a-picking the banjo." And in the past six months, that has helped me a million times, what that one gentleman said, knowing that the people didn't remember me as being the person that had lost his voice and got stage fright and scared to death; they remembered me as the one who turned a flip off of the stage in the crowd. The reason the people had known me, I had put up rope swings there in the gym a few weeks before that, and I had turned flips off of the ropes, and they broke with me and left me

Page 33
hanging about fifteen feet in the air by my heels. And when the bar broke with me, everybody in the gymnasium jumped up and screamed. And all I done is just flipped over and landed on my feet and went up through the crowd, turning flips.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
I was the only person in that whole… Was you there that night? (To James, his brother) Well, I guess you jumped up, too, because there wasn't a soul there setting.
PATTY DILLEY:
Were they afraid you were going to get hurt?
ROY HAM:
They knew I was going to be killed.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
Because, see, I had jumped from the ropes and hung my heels over this bar and was swinging on the bar by my heels, after I had turned loose from the swings. But what I done, I had swung it up this way and got it over the crowd and had turned the flip up here over the crowd. And that had already unnerved them, and when I turned that flip they thought I was going to land in them. I went back the other way and turned loose and hung by my heels on this other bar, and that's when it broke.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you learn to do all that?
ROY HAM:
Swinging on grapevine.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Out behind the old barn.
ROBERT:
That was the monkey in him.
ROY HAM:
Like Robert said, the monkey that was in me. We used to see how far we could go, swinging from limbs up there in the mountains. We

Page 34
never could go far like Tarzan …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… but we enjoyed what we could do. And a lot of times in the winter… People talking back then about they could take five dollars and buy all their groceries. They didn't buy all their groceries; they just bought the seasoning to go in the groceries. The groceries, in a lot of cases, dug in a hole and put out here in under the snow. And you could rabbit hunt in the winter, and you knew where a certain pile in the snow was at. And you'd go out there and dig in under that, and some of the hillbillies had their apples laying on the ground with straw cover and snow, and that snow would keep the apples all winter. And that was good eating …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… if you went rabbit hunting.
PATTY DILLEY:
When did you first start making dulcimers?
ROY HAM:
I don't remember the year. I had been making violins.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you first learn how to make your violins?
ROY HAM:
I made my first fiddle out of a cornstalk. We had always made our Christmas toys out of wood. The little men that can dance on a board, slingshots. Everything like that was handmade. And we enjoyed playing with them at the time, but we learned to hate them, all of them, because we wanted store-bought toys. And now that's what the children want, is these handmade toys now. No way that I can furnish what the people want, even right around here, just wooden toys. But the first dulcimer that I ever saw… Now you've

Page 35
heard the song about Tom Dooley. Well, Tom Dooley killed Laurie Foster, was supposed to have. That's what the song was wrote about; there's a big debate going on about it. Laurie Foster's sister was a neighbor of ours, and in her home at one time, she had… Us children, walking two miles to school every day, Aunt Bertie Baugus lived half the distance between our home and the school. And every evening of the world, by the time we got up there we'd need a drink of mountain water. And she always had a dipper hanging on the back porch that we'd get us a drink. And we were welcome to go. And I guess I was five years old when I saw my first dulcimer. I knew that Bertie's sister had been killed by somebody, but I didn't know it was Tom Dooley. At the time didn't know there'd be a famous song wrote about it. And the first dulcimer book that I ever remember seeing was years later, and the first tune that I opened up on the first page was the song of Tom Dooley. That may be one reason that I made so many dulcimers; it was just something next to my heart. The first dulcimer that I made, I went up Horse Creek. There was an old mountain preacher up there that had one, and it had been in the family for well over a hundred years. His grandfather had made it. The old preacher is dead now, but his grandfather had made it, and he said the best that he could figure it would be a hundred and twenty-five years old. Now that was maybe twenty-five or thirty years ago.
PATTY DILLEY:
What was that preacher's name?
ROY HAM:
Walter Gray, and his grandfather had built the dulcimer. He wouldn't play nothing but church songs on it; he wouldn't even pick

Page 36
"Wildwood Flower" for me. But he did let me get the pattern for where the frets would go. And it was years later before I could build my own fret board without measuring off. He had thirteen frets on his, and now I can put any number of frets on it, depending on the length that you want your neckband. And since that time I've made hundred of them. I've got them in about every state in the United States. When I was growing up, when we heard our first radio, they had a Dr. George D. Heaton on the radio, and my mother enjoyed listening to him. And I had the privilege a few years ago of making him a dulcimer for his birthday. And then last year I made a dulcimer for the Governor of North Carolina (Jim Holshouser) and gave it to him up at Hickory. He wrote me a real nice letter December the sixteenth; it was my birthday. I've got his letter put up in a frame, that I'll probably keep as long as I live, knowing that I got a letter from the Governor of North Carolina. Now I've made guitars, mandolins.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did you learn to make your other instruments?
ROY HAM:
Trial and error, I guess, a whole lot. People like Albert Hash were great, mountain people showing me the different things to do.
PATTY DILLEY:
He taught you how to make fiddles.
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you make any of those before you first made your dulcimer?
ROY HAM:
Yes, ma'am. I'd made several violins before I made any dulcimers. The first dulcimer that I made, me and this halfbreed Indian sawed the wood out with a crosscut saw. And it took us a half

Page 37
a day to saw enough for two dulcimers.
PATTY DILLEY:
Now you can do it in five minutes, almost.
ROY HAM:
Yes, I saw one out in five minutes now. And these American people talking about their light bill being high? I would not, under no circumstances, regret paying my light bill because it would be worth the entire light bill to saw out one dulcimer, for the price of my month's light bill. I'd rather pay my whole month's light bill than to saw out the one dulcimer with a crosscut saw. Now after I got out of crosscut saw I made me a frame saw, looked like a window, and used that to saw dulcimers out for years. Dulcimers, fiddles, guitars.
PATTY DILLEY:
I heard one man up in Avery County saws his wood out with a chain saw. [laughter] I bet that tears up wood. It wastes a lot of wood.
ROY HAM:
It wastes a lot of wood.
PATTY DILLEY:
Because I guess with this real fine saw, you save as much wood as possible. Not as much of it's turned into sawdust.
ROY HAM:
I worked hard to get bowls of wood for years out of old furniture. We went to a sale in the mountains several years ago, and on one of the old beds that they had up there they had a bed slat that I wanted, a real pretty piece of wood. And I didn't want the bed—it was no good—I just wanted that bed slat. And somebody bid fifty cents on the bed. And that started it off. I would give a dollar for it. I run it to twelve dollars and a half to get that one little five-and-a-half-inch-wide board, and as long as a bed is wide. I bid twelve dollars and a half; that was a fortune back then. That must have been in the late forties, I guess, early fifties. Well,

Page 38
after twelve dollars and a half, I quit bidding and let the other fellow have it. There was just two of us bidding. And after the sale was over, I walked over and asked him if he'd sell me that board. And he looked at me right stupid. He said, "Is that what you was bidding on?" I said, "Yes, sir. That board was what I was bidding on." He said, "You take the darn board. You can have it."
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
So I got the board for nothing. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
I bet he was mad. He could have got it for fifty …
ROY HAM:
No, he thought it was funny that a person would be crazy enough. But if he'd have saw the fiddle that I made out of the old bed slat, he'd have probably wanted the bed slat back. That, I think, was the best violin I ever made.
PATTY DILLEY:
So all your instruments and stuff, it kind of gives you some satisfaction besides your work? I don't know what I'm asking. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
The satisfaction I get making people happy is my pay for it. I've never charged for the instruments. In fact, tonight I sent one all the way to South America. (To a woman who was starting to teach down there)
PATTY DILLEY:
That's a real sweet girl.
ROY HAM:
She was. As far as I'm concerned, I'd never seen that girl before. The one that was in here a while ago? She came in last Sunday night, I believe. Came through the door, and the gentleman that was with her introduced her to me, told me where she was from. She was living down in South America. And I told her who I was, and

Page 39
she said, "Well, Mr. Ham, I've been in here before when I was about twelve years old." So I guess that I'll probably be getting some of their instruments from down there, and they'll probably be getting some of mine from here, exchange. She has friends in South America that build instruments, and she's introducing them to our instruments, and she's going to see if they would be happy with their introducing me to their instruments.
PATTY DILLEY:
I know for a while there you were thinking about doing dulcimers and making things for a living. Have you changed your idea about that, or how do you feel about doing that, about selling your instruments?
ROY HAM:
Well, I've got to live. If things gets bad enough till I have to quit the plant, I'll have to charge for the dulcimers, fiddles, guitars, mandolins, banjos. My wife throwed a pressure cooker lid at me last year, and I tore it up and made a five-string banjo out of it. Did you see that thing?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, I saw that. That was pretty.
ROY HAM:
And more people wanting that than any other banjo in the county. You didn't see that one, did you, Robert? I'll show you a picture of it.
PATTY DILLEY:
That was pretty.
ROY HAM:
I'm going to keep making these instruments as long as I can get around. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
That's "Arkansas Traveller."
ROY HAM:
"Arkansas Traveller." Several years ago, before any radio or television, you'd get a bunch of fishermen together, and they'd always

Page 40
talk about the fish that got away. And if it was people that liked to hunt, if a bear come through, every bear hunter in the country would get together and they'd leave their families and go hunt for the bear. Well, there was a white stallion down in Arkansas, Alabama, down through there in three or four states, that the people had tried for years to catch. And every time that stallion would come through, they'd all take out after it and run. And they called it "The Arkansas Traveller." And when they captured it they wrote the tune of "Arkansas Traveller." Most of the mountain tunes are wrote about some incident like that that had happened. [Music] One of the tunes that I remember from years ago was "It Ain't A-Going to Rain No More." You ever heard of that one?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
ROY HAM:
You like it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
ROY HAM:
Well, you get throwed in jail if you play that in the state of Texas. It's against the law to pick that tune in the state of Texas.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why is that?
ROY HAM:
In 1930—I believe this is right—that was one of the most popular tunes in the country. And they had a drought in Texas, and it sure didn't look like it would ever rain again in the state of Texas. The man that wrote the tune, they grabbed him up and put him in jail, and he was in jail for thirty days. And they passed a law that they couldn't play the tune "It Ain't A-Going to Rain No More" in the state of Texas. And that man, being that they had had him in jail before the law was wrote, he had to sign an affidavit that as long as he lived in

Page 41
the state of Texas, he couldn't play"It Ani't A-Going to Rain No More" in the state of Texas. Now us people in North Carolina, we're smarter than that, aren't we?
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] I know what you're going to say, so I'll say yes.
ROY HAM:
Now we have one of the prettiest mountain tunes that's ever been wrote, is against the law to pick it in the state of North Carolina. Did you know that? [Music] ("Poor Ellen Smith")
PATTY DILLEY:
You know any words to it?
ROY HAM:
I don't know too many of the words. I thought it was awfully foolish that people would pass a law that you couldn't pick and sing a tune as beautiful as that. As ridiculous. And I always thought that us in North Carolina, as smart as we are, had better sense than that. Last year I went down to the library here in Newton and picked up a book, and a tune that I'd heard at box suppers, any kind of hillbilly place, I'd heard that song years and years. And in there it said it was a misdemeanor to play that tune in the state of North Carolina.
JAMES HAM:
Don't you reckon some of her family got in behind it, objected to it?
ROY HAM:
No, it seems like that while he was in prison in Raleigh waiting to be executed for the murder of Ellen Smith, he called for a guitar. He wanted to pick a guitar during his last few weeks on earth. So they took him a guitar, and that was the tune that he wrote. And he was picking it and singing it when one of his buddies or a good friend went to see him, or maybe some of his family. And they brought it back out. And everywhere there was a gathering that tune caught on;

Page 42
everybody wanted to pick it.
PATTY DILLEY:
"Poor Ellen Smith."
ROY HAM:
Yes. And every time that they'd get together and they'd start picking that, you would have the people that wanted him set free because he wrote the song. You had the people that felt sorry for the girl and wanted him executed because he'd killed Ellen Smith. And then you had them mean fellows that just wanted to fight. So you had a big fight every time …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… picking and singing that song. And they made it a misdemeanor to pick and sing that in a crowd in the state of North Carolina. Did you know that, Robert?
ROBERT:
No, I'd heared the song, but I didn't know … [Music]
ROY HAM:
I was fortunate enough to go to the school. I started picking and cutting up with the children at school here lately. I went down to East Newton a few months back. And I was picking the song, blowing on the harmonica, and telling the story about "It Ain't A-Going to Rain No More." Did you ever hear that?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, you told me.
ROY HAM:
Down here at the school, I was telling about it against the law to play "Ellen Smith" in the state of North Carolina, and the little old kids commenced to giggling and putting their hand over their mouth, "Hoo-hoo." And the principal come over and says, "Mr. Ham, do you know what the children are laughing about?" And I said, "Yes, ma'am. Ellen Smith is sitting right there in the back of the room." And their music

Page 43
teacher's name was Ellen Smith.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
One of the loveliest ladies that you could ever see. We were sitting in here one evening, and this southern hillbilly from California (he came from California and was studying to be a hillbilly up in the mountains) came through the door and asked me for the words to that tune. There was a nice gentleman standing over here all dressed up; he was a big lawyer. I never had seen the guy before. He'd been standing here ten or fifteen minutes. This gentleman that teaches music came in and asked for the tune of "Ellen Smith". And I said, "Well, why do you want it? You can't pick it in the state of North Carolina." And he looked at me and said, "What?" I said, "It's against the law." And this fellow that was dressed up in a suit and necktie …
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
ROY HAM:
… (I want you to go to the library) and see if it's still on the books as being a misdemeanor. And if it was, he'd see if he couldn't get it changed. I was just pulling Wayne Erbson's leg about he couldn't pick it. He could pick it from one end of North Carolina to the other without being arrested now. I bet there isn't no cop knows whether it's against the law. [Music] One of the best songs to get killed over was if you picked and sung "Brown's Ferry Blues." If you didn't have your running shoes on, you'd get in trouble for it in Ashe County. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Why is that?

Page 44
ROY HAM:
Because …
[laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Maybe there's something I don't know.
ROY HAM:
No, ma'am. It's not bad. [Music and singing.] I was going down the road one time and this hillbilly was singing that, and all at once this hillbilly cut loose with a twelve-gauge shotgun, blowing those mountains up. He just couldn't stand the thought of anybody being happy in singing "Brown's Ferry Blues." He didn't mind you singing nothing else, did he?
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, why didn't he want you to sing that?
ROY HAM:
I don't know. [Music] I think this right here is what offended him. [Music and singing.] "Two little maids a-playing in the sand, Each one a-wishing that the other was a man, Lord, Lord, I got those Brown's Ferry Blues."
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] I'm going to write those words down. Those might not have come out right on the tape. I hadn't heard that.
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing.] Two little maids a-playing in the sand, Each one a-wishing that the other was a man, Lord, Lord, I got those Brown's Ferry Blues, Two ole maids a-making jelly, One fell in; She burned her belly, Lord, Lord, I got those Brown's Ferry Blues. My pore Daddy standing in the rain. Oh, by golly, he's missed his train, Lord, Lord, I got those Brown's Ferry Blues."
PATTY DILLEY:
I like that song. I hadn't heard that one. I can't believe

Page 45
I hadn't heard that one.
ROBERT:
That's an old one.
ROY HAM:
That is an old one. That come out in what, the thirties?
ROBERT:
As far back as I can remember, it was out.
ROY HAM:
[Music] That was real popular in the mountains. It was a beautiful tune to be picked with a mandolin, banjo, and a guitar, and a violin or fiddle. And every time we had a box supper… You ever know what a box supper was?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, we had them at church in Buffalo Creek.
ROY HAM:
I didn't know you lived in Buffalo.
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, I've been to them before. That's where my mother's from. She was born up in Buffalo, and I've been to them.
ROY HAM:
We know a tune about "Buffalo gal, won't you come out tonight?"
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] That's not the same Buffalo, is it?
ROY HAM:
Oh, it's not!? Yes, it is, too. You know, that might have been wrote for Miss Dilley.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Are you sure that was written about Buffalo?
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing.] "Buffalo gal, won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight, Buffalo gal, won't you come out tonight, dance by the light of the moon?"
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you-all really sing that song about the girls in Buffalo? You-all are kidding me, aren't you?
ROY HAM:
Yes, ma'am, "Buffalo gal, won't you come out tonight, come out

Page 46
tonight, come out tonight?"
JAMES HAM:
It's a real old one. [unknown].
PATTY DILLEY:
I just always thought it was Buffalo, New York, that they were talking about.
ROBERT:
I can remember my dad, he used to play it on his guitar.
ROY HAM:
I doubt if that tune has ever been played in Buffalo, New York. That's a hillbilly tune, honey.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] That's so funny. I'd always heard that song, …
ROY HAM:
You didn't hear it in Buffalo, New York, though, did you?
PATTY DILLEY:
No. [laughter] No, but I never thought it's written about Ashe County, N.C… That's funny.
ROY HAM:
You ask your mother whether it's writ about her.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
She would have been about sweet sixteen. No, she'd have been about sweet ten or something like that, maybe, when that tune was around.
PATTY DILLEY:
That'll tickle her.
ROY HAM:
Turk Thompson was the one that every box supper he went to, he had to pick that tune, "Buffalo Gal," and "I Got a Poppa Standing in the Rain." He was the one got us shot at that night.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why did he get shot at?
ROY HAM:
Because he was singing "Brown's Ferry Blues."
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
It was a popular song then. We had the preacher up there. If

Page 47
you holler "Hard surface road" at him, he'd come out and shoot at you. This same guy would go in his house. He wouldn't buy but three shotgun shells at a time—they'd get three for a dime—and that's all that he would buy at one time. And his brother would go in the house and say, "Mr. Graybeal, we've come up to help you tonight with those boys that are hollering at you" and just tickle the preacher to death. He'd say, "We'll get them devils tonight." They'd be waiting. And they'd shoot the three shells, and then he'd throw the gun down and said, "I'll catch them." And then he'd get out there and holler at him, "Hard surface road." And I mean go and keep him up the rest of the night.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Which Graybeal was that?
ROY HAM:
Sherman Graybeal.
PATTY DILLEY:
Because I know a lot of Graybeals married in our family. Most of them related to part of that same one. Why was he so mad over "Hard surface road"?
ROY HAM:
We hollered "Biscuit" at him. The same thing.
PATTY DILLEY:
It's just that you were hollering at him.
ROY HAM:
Just that you hollered at him. And a lot of times he'd blame that on the Ham boys, the hollering, and I don't think either one of us ever hollered at doors.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you-all have a reputation back then?
ROY HAM:
No. Our reputation wasn't anywhere along that line.
PATTY DILLEY:
When you went to Norfolk, did they ever make fun of the way you talked? Like if you talked like a hillbilly, did they ever make

Page 48
fun of you?
ROY HAM:
I could sit and talk for thirty minutes and have them all… One of my favorite tales of Norfolk was to get a bunch of them there city dudes round of a night, and they'd be drinking beer. My favorite tale was to tell them about my daddy was a logger, and he believed in cutting logs for logging companies. And he'd be about fifteen or twenty miles away from the closest home. And you know those people in a place like that, they believed every word I said. And I could make up a tale—it'd take thirty minutes to tell it—but at the end of it my daddy had sent me down about fifteen miles to a country store to get something to eat and some bear traps because the bears had been stealing our groceries. And he wanted me to get it, and I was about fourteen or fifteen years old at that time. And come back up the holler, and the bear got after me. And I run, and I dropped the groceries. And he wasn't after groceries that day; he was after me. And I come to this chestnut tree that had died out—the blight had killed it—and it was so big that you could drive a car in it if there had been a hole in the trunk. It was hollow on the inside where it had been dead for years and years. And I told them that I just clumb up the tree limb and was standing up on top. And I'd dropped my gun, so I couldn't shoot the bear. Had an old muzzle-loading gun, and it wouldn't shoot but one time. And when I got up on top, my foot slipped and I fell down in the tree. And I said the bear was sticking his paw in and grabbing at me, and he almost got me. And these silly [laughter] people would stand around there and listen at that and take them a drink

Page 49
of beer and listen so intently that anything in the world that I'd tell them, they believed it. They was that stupid and believed that a hillbilly that talked like I did—they done that to get me to talk and tell tales—and finally I told them that it hadn't occurred to me that I could get those three bears that was after me.
PATTY DILLEY:
There was three of them. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
Yes, there was three of them. That I had three traps. (I had already told them that Dad didn't have the money just to get the three traps. The price of them was so high that he didn't have enough money left from the groceries.) And the first bear just about got me, the first time he stuck his paw through a knothole and grabbed at me. And after a little while of that dodging them, I got tired of it, and so I happened to think that I had the three bear traps. And I caught the first bear. I opened the trap up, and when he stuck his foot through there to scratch me I stuck that bear trap on him. And then I had the bear caught; he couldn't get the ham out of the knothole. [laughter] Now this won't do you any good. You-all know I'm telling a durn lie, but those people in Norfolk didn't know it. And me being away from home, I was sipping beer, too. I hated it. It tasted nasty and made me sick, but it was loosening my tongue up. And I caught the second one the same way. And I got the third one. And I told them, "Now," I said, "you durn bears, you're done for." And I clumb up the tree on the inside. I had to make up a tale to study how I could get up to the top of that, and finally got up to the top. And I jumped down and jumped on my gun barrel and bent the gun barrel, the old muzzle-loader. Anybody with sense knows you can't

Page 50
bend a muzzle-loader gun barrel. I told them I didn't have but the one bullet [laughter] , and everybody in there was so tense and so built up that I told them, "Well, here goes." And I pulled the trigger, and it bent the gun barrel, and the bullet curved around the tree and killed all three bears. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
Now you talk about getting a cussing. I got one the first time I told it.
PATTY DILLEY:
And they didn't believe that.
ROY HAM:
No. If I'd told them I'd clubbed the bears to death, I'd have been a hero.
JAMES HAM:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
There was one old fellow, sixty-three or sixty-four years old, and he believed every word of it, Sly Joins. The reason we had teamed up with him, he had a brand new LaSalle automobile. Now you young people never saw a LaSalle.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was it something fancy back then?
ROY HAM:
What are you talking about? It'd be fancy now if you could get one. It was a Rolls Royce, but it was made by Chrysler. It would be like the Lincoln Continental is to the T model now. When you rode in the LaSalle, you were riding in solid comfort. And we took up with him. I didn't know the way of those city people, and I was learning fast. They'd do many things I wouldn't think about doing.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they ever try to take advantage of you or anything like

Page 51
that, because maybe you didn't know much about the city or anything? Or are you too smart for them? [laughter]
ROY HAM:
No, I hadn't even went through school yet. After the War was over I quit and went back and finished high school later. We had a record, an old song about Kenny Wagoner, "Kissing Kenny." And I was playing that one day, and my daddy had walked to the store. And I was playing that, and Dad come up, the only time that I believe he ever really enjoyed listening to a record. He said, "Well, they got Kenny Wagoner today." They had caught Kenny Wagoner that day. They had got the message down there that the FBI had turned a gun. Now he was captured over there in your country, (to Robert) close to Bristol. And they had opened fire on him without asking him to surrender and had put forty-two bullets into the place he was at, and he got out of it with his hands up without a scratch, just grinning. Stood there grinning. [Music and singing.] You ever hear about him? The last time he turned himself in… I think he's alive today; he'd be pretty old if he's still alive. But since I've been to Newton… He wasn't captured; he just give hisself up.
PATTY DILLEY:
What were they after him for?
ROY HAM:
Murder. He must have been a lover-boy, because he kissed a lady sheriff and got away with kissing the lady sheriff. You see, part of the song goes… [Music and singing.] And just kiss her [unknown]." One of the sheriffs that caught him was

Page 52
a woman.
JAMES HAM:
It was in Leaksville, Alabama, wasn't it?
ROY HAM:
It was something about Leaksville.
JAMES HAM:
That's where the woman sheriff was at, that turned him loose.
ROY HAM:
She didn't turn him loose.
JAMES HAM:
Well, he got loose.
ROY HAM:
That's the reason they called him "Kissing Kenny."
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you ever hear a song about "Little Omie Wise"?
ROY HAM:
"Naomi Wise"?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, that's supposed to have lived in Ashe County. Got killed by her lover. Somewhere around there they got and killed Omie.
ROY HAM:
I've heard that, but I haven't heard that since I was ten years old, I don't guess.
PATTY DILLEY:
I heard another man playing it up here one time. I learned a song. I was playing it one time, and my mother heard it and she said she'd heard it when she was a little girl, heard the story about little Omie Wise.
ROY HAM:
Now if you know "Naomi …
PATTY DILLEY:
I don't know it on the dulcimer.
ROY HAM:
[Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
When did you first live in Newton?
ROY HAM:
After a bad bean crop in '47.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Oh, yes, your forty-cents-a-bushel crop.
ROY HAM:
I moved to Newton to repay the money that I had borrowed

Page 53
to pay the people to take my beans. And I still don't think I got all that paid for the government man to put the price on it. Because [laughter] still in debt.
PATTY DILLEY:
Gosh. So did you move right here?
ROY HAM:
I moved within a mile of where I'm at right now.
PATTY DILLEY:
And you're living here ever since.
ROY HAM:
Lived right here, within walking distance of where I'm at right now.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you start working for Bassett right then?
ROY HAM:
No. I started working up at Broyhill Furniture, bookkeeping, and I wasn't too happy with that. So then I started driving a truck for the State of North Carolina. And it was a close election day in '48. And they asked me to vote for Harry Truman and give the Democrats $2.50 for campaign money, and I said, "No, I'm not giving no campaign money to the Democrats." So they fired me.
PATTY DILLEY:
Wow. Gosh.
ROY HAM:
That was in '48. A job was hard to find back then.
JAMES HAM:
I don't remember that.
ROY HAM:
I got fired in '48 because I wouldn't give the Democrats $2.50 for their campaign money.
JAMES HAM:
Oh, well, in that case …
ROY HAM:
I want to ask you something else. Do you remember the time I got caught driving without a driver's license? Do you remember what I told the police chief here in Newton? Now you was with me. I give you the keys.
JAMES HAM:
I remember something about it, but I don't remember just

Page 54
exactly how it all come around.
ROY HAM:
You remember they had caught me on Friday night. And I asked you to go with me to the jailhouse to see about it. The officers were real nice about it. I'd been robbed. Everything in my pocketbook was stolen, and I didn't have no driver's license, so I got caught. And they wrote me out a citation to be down at the jailhouse on Saturday. I went down there and took this gentleman along with me in case. I didn't have any driver's license, so I had my car parked right out in front of the jailhouse. And they had a real nice police chief here in Newton by the name of W. W. Hendricks. We went up to the jailhouse, and he was mean, wasn't he, when you called him that? And he said, "Would you give us twenty-five dollars to forget about it?" I told him no. When I paid my taxes, I didn't have no twenty-five dollars to give. He said, "Well, I'll put you in jail. I'll just lock you up." And I give Robert my key. I said, "Robert, you drive the car home." And I says, "You'll have to let me go Monday morning." And he says, "Just why will I have to let you go on Monday morning?" I said, "I was talking to a highway patrolman out here, and he told me that there wasn't a damn thing that you or no body else could do about my driver's license. 'If they were good in Raleigh, 'he said, ‘they can hold you till Monday, and you can get them."’ And he said, "Well: [laughter] Well, in that case, if you'll get your duplicate driver's license, then we'll let you go." And we drove on out. But the maddest I've ever been in my life, though… It's awful that the cops would swear lies. Me and a good friend of mine run a red light over here in

Page 55
North Newton, and they said we was doing forty-five miles an hour under the red light. They lied. In the thirty-five-mile zone, we were doing eighty-five when we were under that red light. [laughter] Well, isn't that true? He did lie, didn't he?
JAMES HAM:
That's true, he lied. That thing doesn't keep a hundred and twenty when you got two on it. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
[Music] She's going to play [unknown].
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] What do you want me to play?
ROY HAM:
Anything you can pick.
PATTY DILLEY:
I don't have a pick.
ROY HAM:
You've got one there in your mouth, babe.
PATTY DILLEY:
I know, but I've got to use fingers. I can't hold it and hold the dulcimer. My fingers are too clumsy.
ROY HAM:
"Buffalo Gal," being your mama's from Buffalo.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
You will have to learn to play that.
PATTY DILLEY:
I have to learn to play that. Did you hear of one called "Soldier's Joy"?
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
I like that one. [Music] You ever heard any words to it?
ROY HAM:
No, there are not any words.
PATTY DILLEY:
Somebody wrote some words one time.
ROY HAM:
What?
PATTY DILLEY:
Jimmy Driftwood? You know, he's a man from Arkansas. He wrote some words to that one time, and I know a couple of verses to it.
ROY HAM:
Well, let's hear them.

Page 56
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Okay, let me see if I can remember. [Music and singing.] "Some continental soldiers on the bivouac, were playing stud poker in a mountain shack. Every vigilante dropped his hand, when the captain of the guard yelled a sharp command: ‘Jimmy, get your fiddle out, and rosin up the bow. Johnny, get your banjo out, we're gonna have a show. Billy, pass the jug around to Corporal McCoy, and we're gonna have a tune called ‘Soldier's Joy.’ There goes General Washington, he's got his horse in a sweeping run. The barefoot boys are a-begging to fight. We're gonna cross the Delaware River tonight. Oh, Jimmy, get your fiddle up, and rosin up the bow… (cont. with chorus)’" I lose my voice all the time on that. "A hand-made fiddle and a mandolin, an old banjo and a tambourine, A big dumb bully for the drummer boy, Everybody loves to hear ‘The Soldier's Joy.’ Jimmy, get your fiddle out, and rosin up the bow. Johnny, get your banjo out, we're gonna have a show. Bill, pass the jug around to Corporal McCoy. And we're gonna have a tune called ‘Soldier's Joy."’ That's it. That's my best song. That's the only song I can play decent.
ROY HAM:
I'm no soldier, but I enjoyed that. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
That's the only one I can play decent.
ROY HAM:
No, it's not the only one you can play.
JAMES HAM:
I liked that.
PATTY DILLEY:
I like it, too.
JAMES HAM:
Yes, ma'am.
PATTY DILLEY:
Play another.
ROY HAM:
Pick "Wildwood Flower."

Page 57
PATTY DILLEY:
I never can play that one. I can't play that one good. I haven't learned quite yet how to play that.
ROY HAM:
Right here it is.
PATTY DILLEY:
Why don't you play that one, too?
ROY HAM:
No, ma'am. [Music]
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
[Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, I'm learning something right after all.
JAMES HAM:
Play some more. [Music]
ROY HAM:
Wouldn't take long, would it?
PATTY DILLEY:
No.
ROY HAM:
Let's try it one time just a little bit faster. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
[unknown]
ROY HAM:
Well, it wouldn't take you long. [Music: two dulcimers]
ROY HAM:
Let's try this more often. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
That's really pretty with two.
ROY HAM:
It is. [Music: two dulcimers]
ROY HAM:
Won't that be easy for you to pick out, though, [unknown]?

Page 58
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. I'll have to try it. I always get messed up on this part. [Music]
ROY HAM:
I wish we could practice just a little bit more on that. You should see some of the dulcimers this gal has made. She's made about as many as I have.
PATTY DILLEY:
No.
ROY HAM:
I thought I had taught you all you knew about a dulcimer, and then you come off playing "Soldier's Joy."
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
I wish I could play that about "Buffalo Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight?" I'd go and serenade your mama.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] She'd get a kick out of that.
ROY HAM:
Right there where you had the motorcycle wreck is where her mama lived, that's Buffalo Creek.
PATTY DILLEY:
By that one-lane bridge?
JAMES HAM:
Right on that sharp curve, right above the bridge there.
PATTY DILLEY:
I almost ran into a school bus there one time. I came around that corner, and there was this big school bus right on that one-lane bridge. [Music]
ROY HAM:
Me and him would go down the highway at forty miles an hour and swap motorcycles. He had one motorcycle, and I had one.
PATTY DILLEY:
If I'd have seen that, it would have scared me to death.
ROY HAM:
We did that more times than one, didn't we, Robert?
ROBERT:
Yes, sir.
ROY HAM:
One time we was out down here below Newton. I'll never forget

Page 59
this. I had a '74 in a Harley, and he had a '45. Mine would outrun his, but that don't mean a thing in the world back when he would run. It was down on Number 10, and one of us out in the middle of the road.
ROBERT:
And we was riding side by side, no brakes. He had warned us about riding side by side.
ROY HAM:
Well, one of us was out past the center line, side by side, and we met the highway patrolman. We saw his light come on, and we knowed he was coming after us. And I meant for Robert to take out through the woods; he took out just right down the highway. And he twisted the handle of his motorcycle and me right behind him. I knew I could have passed him. I couldn't have went much faster. And his exhaust pipe dropped right off. You couldn't see nothing but a solid flame coming out of that. We got down to where Nigger Town is at, and we just turned off down that dirt road and moving on. And there was a colored fellow the next day. He said, "What was the matter with you boys?"
And Robert met him up, and he said, "Just as you boys got out of sight—that dust hadn't cleared —a highway patrolman come down through here; he was moving on. Y'all must have been running." But I wanted to go out through the woods, and, instead of that, Robert took right on down the highway.
ROBERT:
It was the funniest thing. Only two ways you could go in …
ROY HAM:
[Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you have any black people living in Ashe County? Not too many ever did, did they?

Page 60
ROY HAM:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
Weren't any at all?
ROY HAM:
Very few at that time.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did they do? Were they farmers up there, or what?
ROY HAM:
They were black people. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, what did they do for a living? Were they the farmers like everybody else?
ROY HAM:
Yes. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
Were there people in the county that were rich, you'd say, or that were more well off than other people?
ROY HAM:
Yes. The schoolteachers seemed to be a wealthy family. And we always thought that they were a little better than we were. Come to find out they were just common people. Awful sweet people.
JAMES HAM:
Yes, awful sweet people. They'd pick you up at the hospital and take you over town and drop you off. Even though you were supposed to be dead. [laughter]
ROBERT:
Even though you got the seat of your pants tore out.
ROY HAM:
They came over to my dad and mother's and told us that the two boys were in bad shape. We thought they was dead. We went and saw the motorcycles still laying in the ditch. And we pulled the motorcycles up and looked at them. And then we thought about burning gravel to get up to the hospital to see Freeman and Robert. "What happened to those two boys?" "Oh, they walked over to West Jefferson to get some medicine." And got over there, and they were standing over there in the drugstore window getting their medicine at Graybeal's Drugstore in West Jefferson. Freeman looked back and said, "What's them damn crazy girls laughing about?"

Page 61
And I said, "Well, look at the seat of your britches." The whole seat of his britches was out. [laughter] See, that was the first part he'd hit. He didn't know that. Some more "Wildwood Flower." One more time. [Music: two dulcimers] You're great, gal, you know it? I went over there to church. I hadn't been to church in twenty-five years, and I walked in the church. And there was this thing right on the front row looking at me, grinning. I had never seen her before. She was just as fine a little old girl as you'll want anywhere.
PATTY DILLEY:
He went to church a long time in Ashe County. How come you never went to church in all the years since then? Were the churches just not the same?
JAMES HAM:
Wouldn't let him.
PATTY DILLEY:
They won't let him, huh? [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
I know my mother's the same way, and I was just wondering.
ROY HAM:
Don't your mother go to church?
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, she goes …
ROY HAM:
She wasn't over there that day, was she?
PATTY DILLEY:
No. I'm sure she didn't go for a long time when we went to the church in Newton, but she went at home. She's like that way, too. She likes the church back home in Buffalo. But she don't like the churches down here.
JAMES HAM:
There is a difference.
PATTY DILLEY:
There's a big difference?

Page 62
JAMES HAM:
There's a big difference; it's just not the same.
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, I guess there is. That's like she is. We've lived a lot of places. We never did live one place, always moving.
ROY HAM:
Did you ever hear the saying, "Now that's a dilley"? Now this is a dilley. I tell you, when that rash got on the dilley, it just hung. [laughter] [Music: two dulcimers]
ROY HAM:
You got that thing to going?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, it's still going. We're getting all this down.
ROY HAM:
I didn't know we were doing that.
JAMES HAM:
I did. Got rash and dilley. Play that to your mother. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
Mama won't want to meet me now, will she?
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I'm not going to play that at home.
ROY HAM:
Every time that something was nice, "Oh, that's a dilley." It never was referred to as something, a rotten apple or anything. It was always something nice. "Oh, now that's a dilley." Mr. Dilley has heard that same remark, hasn't he?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes.
ROY HAM:
He laughed about it several times. I met her daddy at the same time. He was a real nice gentleman, do a lot for you. A fellow come in here a while back laughing and said, "Roy, I forgot your first name. Would you have signed a note for me? I went everywhere I knowed to go trying to get a loan and wanting somebody to give me a reference. And I walked in the office and talking about the loan, and I looked down and there was something made by Roy Ham laying on this gentleman's

Page 63
desk." And when he told me where he'd been, it was George Dilley. He said, "Yes, sir, that was the gentleman's name." And he said he didn't feel like he was a stranger no more.
PATTY DILLEY:
Where, in the Farmers Home Administration?
ROY HAM:
Yes. A young boy. I said, "Well, now, if George had called me, I wouldn't have knowed I'd worked with the fellow, I didn't know his name." You remember the first Christmas I spent over at your house? (To Robert) Me and Geneva was sitting over there behind the stove, and it cold as this. And your grandpa standing there, and that woman was there that he'd got out of the pen. And that fellow was standing over there hollered and said, "Claude! Send So-and-so on over here." Claude reached up over the door and grabbed the shotgun, and that shotgun looked bigger than an anti-aircraft gun, knowing Claude Peters had shot a couple of people. He scared me to death. That stove was hot, but I stayed over, and old Geneva just laughed. She thought it was funny. Claude said, "I'm a-comin' shootin'." And on top of that, then the bird had me to drive him down on the mountain hunting for with that shotgun. Do you remember that, Robert?
ROBERT:
Yes, I remember.
ROY HAM:
That was the thing that scared me, knowing that you could get shot. What was that feller's name, come up there that night causing the disturbance?
ROBERT:
[unknown]
ROY HAM:
But he took Claude at his word. He didn't slow down down there on the mountain.
ROBERT:
He kept going [unknown]. [laughter]

Page 64
ROY HAM:
Yes, he kept going. And his grandpa …
ROBERT:
Dooley Kingston.
ROY HAM:
Yes. His grandpa was sitting out one night when we were going down around the mountain—this was at Skull Gap, Virginia—and him and his first cousin got tired of it, so him went off leaving Ma up on top of the mountain. Now these hillbillies—they were hillbillies—and on this night kind of bad and all just sitting around at the stove, a whole bunch of men, and something went "Ka-boom!" Claude Jones said, "Oh, my God, there goes my shotgun!" And it was his shotgun.
ROBERT:
[laughter] go "Ka-boom." There was three of them going "Ka-boom" at one time. They was looting his pump.
ROY HAM:
One night we didn't find his grandpa; we found his car. It had rolled over. And when he sobered up, he was in Pennsylvania with his car chains hung across his back.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
That's right. They got word he had wound up in Pennsylvania over there in Chilhowie, Virginia.
PATTY DILLEY:
How did he get up there?
ROY HAM:
He had hitchhiked. That old man. The day that I got married, he was the first person to come and eat lunch with me and my wife after I got married. I married a girl who's lovely.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was she born here in Newton?
ROY HAM:
Yes. She was raised here in Newton. Never been out of Catawba County but a few times.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really? What kind of work did she ever do?
ROY HAM:
She was a farmer. Cotton-picker.

Page 65
ROBERT:
Roy, that night was the only time I ever seen or heared of two guys sitting in a four-door car, and all four doors would open and shut at the same time. [laughter] [Music] (holding a mandolin)
ROY HAM:
I'll have to make you one of those.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, yes, it has some real pretty work on it.
ROY HAM:
It's a lot easier to make than one of these.
PATTY DILLEY:
Really? I've decided my next instrument I'm going to make, before I start on making anything else, is I want to make myself a guitar. I'm bound and determined, this summer I'm going to make myself a guitar, because I'm going to sell that one I've got. I'm going to make me one first, because I can't do without my guitar.
ROY HAM:
No, you can't.
PATTY DILLEY:
But I'd like to learn how.
ROBERT:
It's a pretty good guitar. Why don't you play us one number.
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I'm not that good at it. I just like the instrument.
ROBERT:
Just messin' around with it. [Music]
ROY HAM:
You can't mess around with Ellen Smith in the State of North Carolina.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
Now you remember that.
PATTY DILLEY:
I know. I'd sure remember that. Oh, glory.
ROY HAM:
I think she was going to get that book out of the library. She is a lovely person. She laughed; she had a big time.

Page 66
[Music]
ROY HAM:
One thing about Claude Peters: he believed in white liquor. Him and his first cousin… His first cousin lived with his grandpa at that time. And one of hisfriends said, "You will not offer Roy no liquor; he wouldn't drink it."
PATTY DILLEY:
Was this your grandpa?
ROY HAM:
No, his grandpa. I never had seen Claude Peters until I went up there that Christmas. And they had told him I wouldn't drink, there's no way that I would drink at that time. And these gentlemen wouldn't drink, but their grandpa was drunk all the time. He was a good old man, but he would fight any man drunk if they asked him to.
ROBERT:
He fought to win, too.
ROY HAM:
He was going to win.
ROBERT:
He was a man, [unknown].
ROY HAM:
But I was treated as nice there as any place I've ever been in my life. I'd go over there, and there was some of the best meals that a person could ever hope to get, over there at Mary Peters', over there at Skull on Whitetop Mountain in Virginia. Right above Chilhowie. But that Christmas Claude set a quart of liquor down and he says, "Roy," he says, "I can't offer you that, but if you drink it I won't say nothing." [laughter] Now that was just as good as telling me to get me a drink of it. I did not look down on Claude because he drank. And the week that me and Margaret were married, we moved in a trailer over here, and Claude Peters come to our house. And he had a glass of whiskey sitting on his table.
ROBERT:
You know you promised not to mention that.

Page 67
ROY HAM:
He asked me not to tell your mama.
ROBERT:
I don't reckon she would have mentioned anything about it.
ROY HAM:
It don't matter. Poor old Claude, he looked up with tears in his eyes. He said, "Roy, you know how to touch a man's heart, don't you?" We'd come over to register and got him. He had both legs broke; he was on crutches. And we had come over here to Newton. Took him back; we were living on the other side of town. And took him over there and set a pretty good-sized glass of whiskey down on his table, and he hadn't had any in two weeks over here at Newton. That Rob's mama. But don't you think they were punishing the old man a little too much, after him having it all of his life?
ROBERT:
They was scared, I think, that he would get drunk and hurt himself.
ROY HAM:
Now, wait a minute. I didn't give him enough to get drunk. There's no way in the world that I would have… I gave him a drink before he ate, and that old man looked up with tears in his eyes. He said, "God, Roy, you know how to touch a man's heart, don't you?" And then he was bragging on Margaret. If you could have seen the look in his face, knowing that I wouldn't touch a drink of liquor, and then set it out in a glass for him.
ROBERT:
If you didn't drink, what was you doing with whiskey at the house?
ROY HAM:
Wait a minute. I went and got it. I didn't drink, did I, Robert? Wasn't no way. [Music]
ROBERT:
[unknown]

Page 68
PATTY DILLEY:
[unknown] got her out of bed. I don't believe it.
ROY HAM:
Oh, she was mad when I come on home. I said, "Honey, I've been in jail. And I was ashamed to get you to come get me." She was madder than fire. [laughter] .
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] But you hadn't had a been there?
ROY HAM:
No. I wasn't in jail. I was out at James', right around the corner out here.
PATTY DILLEY:
It's a wonder she couldn't tell it was James' voice on the phone that time.
ROY HAM:
We hadn't been married too long, and I asked Margaret not to cut her hair. "Don't have your hair cut." And she went and had it cut real short. She had a permanent. And she was sick over it. I'll tell you, that woman was sick. And we lived in the funny-shaped trailer at that time, over yonder. And Margaret started in the door, and I hadn't noticed her hair being cut short and had a permanent. She flipped her hair like that and said, "You say something, I'm going home to Mama." And so I called her "bald head." And I never heard such screaming in my life. I never went in the house. I went and crawled back in the car and went back to town. And she slapped at me, and just wouldn't come the end of bawling. And I can't stand for a woman to bawl. I went to town and waited two hours. Then I come back and I had on a cap just like this, and I opened the door and throwed the cap in. It landed right in Margaret's lap. I didn't know it. I was just acting crazy. And I waited two or three minutes, and I opened the door and peeked in, and there she was still sitting there

Page 69
holding the hat. She said, "What's this?" And I said, "Well, as mad as you was when I left, I throwed my hat in to see if it was safe for me to come in. If the hat had come back out, I'd have went back down and stayed a couple more hours." And she got a big laugh out of that. And to make things between us feeling real good, I give her a slab of chewing gum to chew, she loved it. I thought enough of her to buy her some chewing gum. She bit down on that slice, and it was black pepper chewing gum. So hot, nobody in this world can stand black pepper chewing gum in their mouth. [laughter] And I left again. She started screaming worse than the first time and throwing stuff at me. That was funny. Well, I was gone a little bit longer this time. This was on a Saturday. And I come back, and I had to take her to the show to get her up this time. I throwed the hat in the second time, and she went over and stomped at it and then threw it back out. [laughter] She wasn't sitting in that chair. And that night—I don't know whether I ought to tell this or not, but I'm going to tell it anyway—I went and crawled in the extra bedroom. I said I wasn't going to sleep with her …
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
PATTY DILLEY:
Were you working at Bassett then?
ROY HAM:
No.
PATTY DILLEY:
When did you first start working at Bassett?
ROY HAM:
About ten years ago.

Page 70
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you like working there?
ROY HAM:
They've treated me the nicest of anyplace I've ever been. Good people, good people to work for.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is your work hard? What kind of work do you do?
ROY HAM:
I'm a spare hand. Whoever is out, I take their place.
PATTY DILLEY:
You work with a stapling gun?
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is that dangerous sometimes?
ROY HAM:
[Music] No, I don't think you'd call it dangerous. It's hard work.
PATTY DILLEY:
I remember you telling me some story about somebody got a staple in them or something. I can't remember it.
ROY HAM:
I stooped over one day, and a girl shot me.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] In the pants?
ROY HAM:
Yes. In the seat of the pants. She drove three staples in me before I could get out of the way. I mean on the way up. I felt like killing that girl.
JAMES HAM:
I would have grabbed her and hugged her.
ROY HAM:
No, you wouldn't neither. [laughter] All you'd have been is just like I was, reaching back there and pulling staples. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
That's terrible.
ROY HAM:
Well, it was, that she was that ignorant. Margaret played a good joke on her brother a couple or three years ago. A pitiful little old boy, twenty-one or twenty-two. And he's not as bright as he should be, which, I think, adds to their situation. And he come over to the car talking

Page 71
to me, and he'd never seen Margaret. And they was on welfare. And he thought everybody ought to give him whatever he wanted. It had been handed out to him. And his daddy would meet him by that ramp and wouldn't give him no money to buy his Coca-Colas. That's the only time that they'd come after him, is payday. But before he got on the back of the truck, he had to give his check over to his dad and mama. And this day down at the Winn-Dixie, I have give him so much money. He'd say, "Loan me a dollar"; "Loan me this"; "Loan me that." And I just shelled out so much money that I couldn't shell it out any more [unknown]. My kids were going to school, and he'd dollar you to death. And I said, "Now right here is your reason. I can't keep no money. My wife, I sent her in there, and she'll hide her money in her pocketbook." Margaret come back out to the car, and she had that money in her hands, and she dug a hole in her pocketbook and stuck that money down inside her [unknown]. The little guy raised his head over there and looking at her. And he knew right then I'd told him the truth about her hiding the money. [laughter] Margaret didn't know what it was about. I had to bust out laughing. And when we left him standing down there, I told her what I'd said. "Well," she said, "you ought to be ashamed." [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
You were telling us some stories about what they did to people down there on their birthdays. They celebrated people's birthdays kind of funny, didn't they?
ROY HAM:
Cut their britches legs off. And I would sneak in the front door and out the back on my birthday.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
I never got mine cut off.

Page 72
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they ever try to? They ever get you down?
ROY HAM:
No. If they'd ever tried it, I would just let them cut them and then been embarrassed. Because you can't fight a crowd.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did they ever cut James? Did they get lots of people's?
ROY HAM:
Oh, yes, everybody's, if they found out when their birthdays were. Now I could see them cutting a girl's britches legs off. The girls would cut the girls' britches legs off, and the boys would cut the boys' britches legs off. It got so bad they had to put a stop to it. And I was glad of that. The next week after they put a stop to it, this old colored fellow, they never had found out his birthday. He was sixty-two years old. And everybody in there loved the old man. It was on a Friday. And they found out Friday was his birthday. And they didn't find it out until he knowed for sure they wasn't going to cut his britches legs off. And on that Friday some of the white ladies had took up a collection and bought that old nigger some awful nice birthday presents, and they made him one of the prettiest cakes you ever saw. The old nigger died that night. He was happy; he was good. And he was telling about his step-daddy left Georgia when he was eight years old. He got caught selling liquor. It had been fifty-four years, and he had never been back in Georgia. He wouldn't eat a watermelon that come from Georgia. He said, "Them's the meanest white people I know of. My step-daddy left down there, and he had to leave one night after the white folks had gone to bed." His brother went up and tried to pay off, and the sheriff said no. He said, "We don't want the money; we want the nigger." And he said, "In my home town, there was a sign that said, ‘Nigger, if you can't read, you'd better run."’

Page 73
And he said, "They means that, too." [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
That was a fine old nigger if there ever was one. A colored person. Now when I said "nigger," that was just an expression. One day got two out, and they were fighting now. One of them hit the other, and the other say, "You do that again, I'm going to beat all that black off of your head." And that would have been a pretty good job. He wouldn't have his lunch; it would have been a whole day's job.
JAMES HAM:
We've got one colored girl that's worked [unknown]. And I'll tell you the truth. Now you're talking about somebody that's lively and full of theirself. You don't get nothing on that gal. She don't call herself black; she calls them gold. And she's all the time picking at you.
ROY HAM:
[unknown] all the time got something to say to you and picking at you. Picking at one the other day, and if she sees that she's getting away with it she'll just carry it on that much more, get away with you. And she got on old I. A. Travis … She was just fooling, [unknown] she was having herself a ball. And one day Travis's wife, his wife over there complaining. And she looked at him and says, "Aw, he ain't got nothing to worry about. He don't like these here goldies no way." [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you ever think about leaving Bassett?
ROY HAM:
Just very recently.
PATTY DILLEY:
But that convinced you not to go. [laughter]

Page 74
ROY HAM:
I've turned in notice one time I was quitting. One bossman said no raise. Another one said, "We'll make it thirty-five." Come up to Glenn sucker. And they weren't giving no raises at that time. Glenn said, "What is this? A thirty-five-cent-an-hour raise?" "Roy's quitting Saturday." He said, "Make it even. Give him fifty."
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
And I got a fifty-cent raise there without asking.
JAMES HAM:
I didn't know that guy till last week. Came over to the house about that parking lot out there, you know, it's in an industrial zone, wasn't it? Wanting to fish and so on. And I talked to him. And I was asking him about the way they had that wreck last year on the corner of 9th and College Avenue. It was a mess and everything. I had just gone down there to talk about the park. And he give me his word, he said, "I don't want you to worry about it."
There was some other guy with him that worked for the state. And he looked at him. He says, "Do you know anything about it?" And he says, "Yes, it's just like he said it was." He says, "Well, that fence'll go." And the Town Council voted to turn him down, but they did anyway. Glenn Hunsucker said: The fence blocks the view a-coming this way up the street, and blocks cars out in front of my office, and they're coming the other way. And it was hard to see up there, you couldn't see if there was anything coming. And he told the fence man, and he moved the whole damn thing out away.
ROY HAM:
One Sunday night, I was nightwatchman over here, and the wind had tore t

Page 75
roof off. And there was three or four truckloads of furniture that was getting wet. That night I was nightwatching on Sunday night. That's one of the baddest storms I ever saw. The storm had been over an hour, and the water just started coming through and all over the furniture. And what I done, I went to one of the telephones and called some of the bossmen to get in there and help me. But by the time they got from their homes out there, I had all the furniture moved. I worked as hard as a man could work. And one of the bossmen told me to lay down and take it easy; he'd make the rest of the round that night, do the watchman's job for me. I had to lay down. I was about to pass out. They didn't ask me to work that hard, but if you think you can do something you'll do it, maybe like fighting a fire. And the next morning it come over the loudspeaker, "Roy Ham, call in. (Glenn Hunsucker's office)." Now he's a big daddy; he's the vice president of Bassett. I said, "Oh, my gosh. They're going to get me because two or three pieces of furniture got wet." I couldn't think about the ten thousand, maybe fifteen thousand, dollars' worth of furniture I'd saved for them. Quite by accident that I found that before it ruined all of that. I don't think there was any piece that was ruined. There might have been one or two that was a little bit wet, but by me getting there and working the way I did, I got it all out of the water. And this was about nine o'clock on Monday morning that they called me over the loudspeaker, and I didn't come. The next time they called Lucy Wagoner, and here she come, "Now you better get over to Glenn Hunsucker's office now. He said he meant it." Every step I made toward Glenn Hunsucker's office, "He can't talk to me that way. I'll

Page 76
go home." I mean, I thought of about a dozen different places that had been over to the house, asking me to come to work. And I almost went out the front door and never went by to see what Glenn Hunsucker wanted. When I got over to the office, there was every superintendent from all the plants that we had in this state, sitting in Glenn Hunsucker's office. I thought, "Oh, my goodness," and I started not to go in. Glenn was on the telephone, and I was standing outside the door there. I hate to be blessed out for anything. I don't do things to hurt people's feelings.
I try to do right by people. And I went in, and all them bossmen in there. I looked around at every one of them and swallowed right hard. Glenn laid the telephone down, and he said, "Roy, what are you doing tonight?" "Nothing." He says, "Good, how about a free supper on me?" And I looked at each one of the bossmen. "What do I have to do to get that free supper?" He says, "Pick and sing." I says, "I don't pick and sing for nobody." Well, about an hour later I said, "Well, I'll see you at six-thirty." He convinced me that I could go up there and do that.
PATTY DILLEY:
What did you pick and sing for?
ROY HAM:
The Lions' Club Carnival. I got up there, and he got up and made a speech. He says, "You people can ask him anything you want to except to come and work for you." And one guy got up and asked, "Why is it they tell me that you've never sold one of these instruments? You could make money." I said, "Well, I work for the best people in the world." Boy, did Glenn catch it over that. He says, "You told him to say that." And Glenn says, "No, sir. I didn't know what he was going to say. That's him. That come off of the cuff."

Page 77
And then this old gentleman said, "I saw you on television about a year ago. I saw you two weeks ago. And if I know you're coming on, I'll see you the next time." And Glenn raised up from his chair. He says, "Well, Roy, I didn't know you'd been on TV." Glenn has always been nice to me. Real generous at Christmas time. And I have tried to be the same way to him.
PATTY DILLEY:
Did you tell him why you'd been on TV?
ROY HAM:
This old gentleman did.
PATTY DILLEY:
That's good, that you can really like who you're working for enough to stay. And do you like the people you're working with, too? Are they real good workers? Or are some of them good, some of them bad?
ROY HAM:
Most of them are good that I work with.
ROBERT:
Tickle Mama to death for her "son" to come over and see her.
ROY HAM:
After he was married and gone, his mama left a key to the door out on the porch for me and my family.
PATTY DILLEY:
It's kind of funny that you-all have ended up living in the same town. From the same little town and living in the same town.
ROY HAM:
He and I would leave here, and we'd drive to White Top, Virginia, every weekend. That's where his people and women come from. [text deleted]
PATTY DILLEY:
I might make it up there next weekend. My adopted grandmother lives up there. [laughter] She's a Graybeal. I call her "Granny," and it tickles her, because she ain't got a granddaughter.
ROBERT:
Where's she live?
PATTY DILLEY:
She lives in Buffalo. Howard Graybeal.

Page 78
ROY HAM:
We've got some buffalo dollars …
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
… at Bassett. [text deleted] [Music]
ROBERT:
"Soldier's Joy," play that one more time, because I've got to go. [Music]
ROBERT:
I didn't hear no words to it.
JAMES HAM:
I didn't, either. I was waiting.
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh. [laughter]
JAMES HAM:
C'mon, sing.
ROY HAM:
She acts like she's bashful, but she's not.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] I am. I don't like to sing.
JAMES HAM:
Yeah, you do. Now come on.
PATTY DILLEY:
Okay.
ROY HAM:
You sing at school, don't you?
PATTY DILLEY:
Sometimes. Not too often. [Music and singing]
JAMES HAM:
You're good.
ROY HAM:
She's nothing but good.
JAMES HAM:
We'll see you folks later.
PATTY DILLEY:
Okay. [Music]
ROY HAM:
That one's another courting dulcimer there. Had you seen that one?

Page 79
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I hadn't seen that one.
ROY HAM:
I've got another one over there.
PATTY DILLEY:
Those are beautiful.
ROY HAM:
I'm getting a lot of calls for them. That's what you need, down at the school.
PATTY DILLEY:
I want to make one this summer. I'm making my guitar first. I've already made up my mind. You can't change my mind. I've got to make me a guitar first. I hope Daddy's got the wood to make me one. I'm pretty sure he did, somewhere down in there.
ROY HAM:
You know, your daddy has got some black walnut boards.
PATTY DILLEY:
Are they good enough? How wide a piece of wood do you have to do to make a guitar?
ROY HAM:
Oh, to make a guitar.
PATTY DILLEY:
Do you have to have a piece wide enough to make the whole back?
ROY HAM:
No. We can make it in three pieces.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Music and singing]
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A] [Music]
ROY HAM:
That should be picked with a banjo.
PATTY DILLEY:
Was that the way it was originally played?
ROY HAM:
Yes. Most people played it with a banjo.
[Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
Where could you find the words for that? Would you go to the library?

Page 80
ROY HAM:
Yes.
PATTY DILLEY:
I think I'll go get the words for that. I like that.
ROY HAM:
I had the book up here. Alma was going to type it out, but she never did type it.
PATTY DILLEY:
I'll type it out for you. I'll have time when I come back next spring. I'm going to type me out some things.
ROY HAM:
I sent my Smith-Corona typewriter back to the factory a year ago. Maybe he'll be in next week and bring it back. About three hundred dollars' worth, isn't it? It was the best, highest-priced Smith-Corona that Brendle has. It so happened that James' brother-in-law was troubleshooter for that company, and he was down and I gave him that to take back. [Music]
ROY HAM:
Can you play it?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, a little bit.
ROY HAM:
I enjoy hearing [unknown].
PATTY DILLEY:
[Music] Am I playing "Arkansas Traveller"?
ROY HAM:
You started.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Music] I'm playing a little bit different. Is that all right? [laughter]
ROY HAM:
That's all right. Maybe …
PATTY DILLEY:
I learned one part from you, and then this one part from this other man. [Music] He taught me that part. [laughter] [Music] Now I learned that first part from you, and then I learned that one part that goes like [Music] from one of my friends who was playing the guitar.

Page 81
Then I learned this other part [laughter] from these people that live down from us in Chapel Hill. They play in a bluegrass band, these two boys. And so I was over there one night, and they started playing that song. And this one guy had a fiddle break that went like that [Music] , and I thought it was pretty. [Music]
ROY HAM:
I learned to pick "Home, Sweet Home" from a guy that didn't know a thing in the world about a dulcimer. [Music] The only place that I could go until he and I got to picking, I could do [Music] . And that's as far as I could go. But after we picked a couple of tunes, he said, "Do it this way, and now look at the difference." [Music] come back to this. And then I come into my second one. [Music] And then to that. [Music] See, it's back to there. [Music] Ain't that kind of pretty. That's a beautiful tune. Why don't you try that one? Do you know the tune?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. Start here? [Music]
ROY HAM:
Yes. Now dwell on this one. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
Am I doing all right now?
ROY HAM:
That's good.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Music] I don't know the tricky part.
ROY HAM:
All right. [Music] That'll be easy, won't it?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. I like it.
ROY HAM:
All right, let's try it one more time. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
That's pretty. [Interruption]
PATTY DILLEY:
You better play it one time more.
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing]

Page 82
PATTY DILLEY:
I'll have to practice that one.
ROY HAM:
Yes'm. We will. [Music] We won't have to practice much, will we?
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] That was a little harder [unknown].
ROY HAM:
Yes, it is. [Music] Let's try "Home, Sweet Home" this time, and then we'll quit if you want to. [Music] That's great, gal, I think.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter]
ROY HAM:
I wouldn't be afraid to get up on the stage with you and pick, in front of a crowd.
PATTY DILLEY:
I'd be afraid. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
No, you wouldn't. You'd be just as cool as you are right now. You're not scared like I am.
PATTY DILLEY:
I don't know, us combined together. But I reckon you're just great. [Music]
ROY HAM:
I hate to quit that. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
But it's late.
ROY HAM:
Twelve-thirty.
PATTY DILLEY:
Whew! Gosh, no wonder I'm tired.
ROY HAM:
[Music] Let's see. It wouldn't take much to get "Old Ninety-Seven." We'd have to tune differently to play "Skip to My Lou." Change that to the key of C. Now "Old Ninety-Seven" needs to be played in the key of D.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is that the same tune?
ROY HAM:
That's the tune we're doing now. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
[Singing] That almost sounds like two songs. That always sounds like "I Saw the Light" in some places, but then in other places…

Page 83
It's really, isn't it, that song…
ROY HAM:
"I've got a home in Glory Land that Outshines the Sun."
PATTY DILLEY:
[Music and singing] "I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun, I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun, I've got a home in glory land that outshines the sun, Look away beyond the blue. Do, Lord, Oh, do, Lord, Do remember me, Do, Lord, Oh, do, Lord, Oh, do remember me. Do, Lord, Oh, do, Lord, Oh, do remember me, Look away beyond the blue."
ROY HAM:
Sing some. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
I'd love to, but I'm just tired out. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
Mr. Ham, you think you'll ever move back to the mountains?
ROY HAM:
Yes, I guess I will. I'm looking forward to it.
PATTY DILLEY:
Have you been wanting to for a long time?
ROY HAM:
The last two years I've been wanting to pretty bad.
JAMES HAM:
[unknown] got you out of the mountains, but you never did get the mountains out of you, did you?
ROY HAM:
No, never tried to.
PATTY DILLEY:
He's a hillbilly all the way through. [Music] (His son, Michael, comes in.)
PATTY DILLEY:
Michael's got some of that in his blood, too, I do believe.
MIKE:
Not me.
PATTY DILLEY:
Aww.
ROY HAM:
When you hear music like this coming down a cut through the mountains late in the evening, it really sounds beautiful. [Music]
MIKE:
Dad, that's the reason I wanted to ask you something. Can I take that first dulcimer?

Page 84
PATTY DILLEY:
He (Mike) didn't realize I put it on tape.
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing] Can you pick "[unknown]"?
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I've never tried it.
ROY HAM:
This week that has come up several times. I've thought about it, but I can't get it started. The next few days, try that.
PATTY DILLEY:
[Music and singing]
ROY HAM:
[Singing] That one's to be played in G.
PATTY DILLEY:
Is it "Summer's almost gone now, winter's almost…"
ROY HAM:
"Winter's coming on." [Music and singing]
PATTY DILLEY:
I'll have to get some more words for that. That's a good song. [Music]
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing] Did you ever heard that one?
PATTY DILLEY:
I heard the tune.
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing]
PATTY DILLEY:
I like that one, too.
ROY HAM:
That's a pretty one.
PATTY DILLEY:
What's the name of that one?
ROY HAM:
"Little Darling Gal of Mine." [Music]
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
[Music]
ROY HAM:
Come on back in and sit down, Robert.
PATTY DILLEY:
He can only sit here half an hour.

Page 85
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing]
PATTY DILLEY:
I heard that one before.
ROY HAM:
That's in the key of C. [Music]
PATTY DILLEY:
[Singing]
ROY HAM:
Had you tried to play that before?
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I know the tune. I know the words. I heard that song somewhere. I can't remember but little snatches of it. Michael, you can say something, if you want to. [Music]
ROY HAM:
"Casey Jones" [unknown].
PATTY DILLEY:
Oh, Yes. [Music and singing] It's getting about that time, let me tell you.
ROY HAM:
Yes, I guess we'd better …
JAMES HAM:
You gonna stay all night.
MIKE:
That'd be all right.
PATTY DILLEY:
No, I'm going back home and sleep in my bed. [laughter] [Music]
ROY HAM:
Do you want to do that?
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes, let's do that, since I'm going to be not this week but next week, coming back. I'll be coming here to do interviewing.
ROY HAM:
[Music and singing: "Red River Valley"]
PATTY DILLEY:
Now what's wrong with Mike. He just sits there grinning and poking and pointing and …
JAMES HAM:
He won't say nothing on account of you…

Page 86
PATTY DILLEY:
He won't say nothing 'cause of that tape.
ROY HAM:
He's got the giggles.
PATTY DILLEY:
Yes. I've got some at home, too, I guess. [laughter] My knees cricked when I got up. [laughter] See, they're still cricking.
ROY HAM:
Sixteen. They do that when you turn sixteen.
PATTY DILLEY:
Sixteen. [laughter]
ROY HAM:
Yes. [laughter]
PATTY DILLEY:
Well, I'm beginning to wish I was still sixteen. Getting too old.
JAMES HAM:
You're not old.
PATTY DILLEY:
[laughter] Well, we sure do thank you, Mr. Ham.
END OF INTERVIEW